January 15, 2009

Cattle farm husbandry - euthanasia

Cattle, farming, husbandry, euthanasia, slaughter, the law, humane slaughter, head position to shoot cattle beast.

By Dr Clive Dalton

Shooting a beast in its home paddock for home kill is less
stressful than a trip to a meat works. It's claimed the beef is much better for it

If you have to slaughter (euthanase) a cattle beast of any age, it’s important to study the Code of Animal Welfare No. 19 on ‘the emergency slaughter of farm livestock’, because the process can be very dangerous and you may end up being prosecuted by MAF or the SPCA for causing unnecessary pain and suffering to the animal, or by DoL for causing injury to staff in the workplace.
  • Rifles, shot guns and hand guns are dangerous weapons and you need a current firearms license to own one. There is also the risk these days that if someone sees you carrying one, they may ring the police and you’ll have the armed offender’s squad pay a visit.
  • Captive bolt devices are now available without the need of a firearms licence and should be seen as a bit of necessary farm equipment. The commercially available model is like a metal tube with no pistol hand grip. The old models look too like a hand gun to be safe from public concern.
  • Use the correct calibre blank bullet for the size of the beast and point it at the brain. Hold it lightly but firmly against the head when firing and be prepared for the bank and the jolt of the device after firing.
  • If in doubt about the cartridge size, always use a heavier calibre blank.
  • With a shotgun or rifle, hold the weapon at least 10-25 centimetres from the head pointing at the brain when firing to avoid blowback. A 0.22 rifle is generally not heavy enough calibre to kill a big beast.
  • The shot should be aimed towards the brain at a point determined by the intersection of two imaginary lines each drawn from the middle of the ear base to a point a little above and behind the opposite ear (or the base of the opposite horn). In mature animals and bulls, aim slightly to one side of the intersection point (see Figure below).
  • Cattle must NOT be shot in the poll (back of the head) as this may not cause immediate loss of consciousness.
  • Immediately after an animal has been shot and effectively stunned, its throat should be cut to ensure it has fully bled and is dead.
  • To ensure death you can also “pith” the animal by pushing a long piece of wire in the bullet hole to macerate the brain.
  • Calves should be shot in the same position as for adult cattle.
  • If a captive bolt instrument is not available, a very small calf may be killed by one firm blow to the middle of the cranium (top of the head) with a blunt instrument with sufficient force to fracture the skull and destroy the brain. It should then be bled immediately after stunning.
  • The blood supply to the brain of cattle is markedly different to other farm stock, and this difference can result in prolonged consciousness after the throat has been cut. That’s why throat cutting alone is not an acceptable method of euthanasing cattle.

This shows the spot to aim for. Note how the brain is hear the front of the skull so a shot in that position will hit the target with accuracy. The main thing is to make sure the beast's head cannot move before you fire.

Disclaimer This material is provided in good faith for information purposes only, and the author does not accept any liability to any person for actions taken as a result of the information or advice (or the use of such information or advice) provided in these pages.

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