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Cattle Welfare at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine

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The School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis addresses welfare issues of food animals by delivering education and conducting research on campus and throughout the state. School faculty also contribute their expertise to state and national veterinary associations, commodity groups, non-profit welfare organizations, consumers, and public policy makers in an effort to advance the health and well-being of animals in our local communities and globally.


The Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center (VMTRC) in Tulare is a hub for hands-on training of veterinary students and veterinarians who specialize in dairy production medicine. Gaining practical experience and participating in discussions of current topics, students learn up-to-date welfare practices and veterinary health aspects of dairy production.

Veterinary faculty members based at the center provide clinical services and herd health management consultations. The veterinarians recently completed on-farm evaluations of animal care and well-being on more than 200 California dairies that are members of a national dairy cooperative. The evaluation process was developed as part of the National Dairy FARM Program: Farmers Assuring Responsible Management™.

Faculty at the Dairy Food Safety Laboratory, also in Tulare, and the VMTRC have published several educational guides for on-farm euthanasia of cattle when compromised health requires a humane solution.

On-Farm Livestock Euthanasia (2004) La Eutanasia Del Ganado En Granja Euthanasia Action Plan Plan De Acción De Euthanasia

The center has delivered several educational workshops to train veterinarians and producers in the proper use of captive bolt devices for humane euthanasia of cattle.

Faculty veterinarian Sharif Aly is now conducting advanced scientific research to further refine procedures for improved application of captive bolt devices when used on the farm.

Faculty veterinarian Terry Lehenbauer, director of the Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center, also represents the American Association of Bovine Practitioners on the Animal Agriculture Liaison Committee of the American Veterinary Medical Association, which advises the AVMA’s Executive Board on food animal health and welfare policies.


Veterinarian Michael Payne of the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security has developed and implemented several programs of the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program (CDQAP), an outreach educational program for dairy producers funded by the California Dairy Research Foundation. His team has provided a six-hour training program for over 800 field staff and other dairy industry representatives throughout California’s Central Valley on topics such as welfare, care, food safety, transport and environmental quality.

This program introduced producers to the FARM program and helped them prepare for on-farm evaluation of welfare on their dairies. Participants received materials and in-person presentations regarding best management practices for calf care, transport, feed and water quality, and euthanasia. To date, more than 1,000 California dairies have been evaluated in this program (including the 200 mentioned above), and that number continues to climb.

All the handouts used in the workshops may be downloaded at

Payne's group also has mailed cattle welfare educational materials to every dairy producer in California, including UC Davis materials focused on cattle transportation and on-farm euthanasia. He is also one of the faculty team members who have trained veterinarians, producers and first responders regarding the application of appropriate euthanasia methods.


The school’s Center for Food Animal Health is the focus for collaborative educational and research projects on the health and well-being of food animals. The center has funded dairy welfare projects such as research into nutritional reconditioning of cull cows for beef. Recently the Center for Food Animal Health published Cattle Care Standards: Recommendations for Meeting California Legal Requirements. The publication was developed as a resource for California law enforcement officials, many of whom do not have veterinary or animal science backgrounds, and the cattle industry in addressing neglect and cruelty of cattle by providing recommended minimum standards of care pertinent to contemporary animal cruelty statutes.

The free booklet is available in pdf form at or


Carolyn Stull, PhD, a diplomate in the American College of Animal Welfare Sciences, is the Veterinary Medicine Extension Specialist in animal welfare. She has led scientific reviews of the causes and prevention of non-ambulatory cows and the justification for the practice of tail docking. The latter has been widely cited and is credited with having led the way to California’s elimination of tail docking and the National Milk Producers Federation’s listing of tail docking as an unacceptable practice. She has also published research on the effects of weather events and housing on mortality and lactation in dairy cattle. Stull is a member of the committee writing the OIE (international) standards for transport of agricultural animals and the current chair of the Scientific Committee for Certified Humane, a national animal welfare certification program for food products. Stull has conducted workshops for animal control officers located in counties throughout California on cattle care, nutrition, handling, euthanasia, and transport.

Stull is the lead author of “A Review of the Causes, Prevention, and Welfare of Nonambulatory Cattle,” published in 2007 by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association,

Among her outreach efforts regarding cattle well-being is a series of poster checklists, care guidelines, and articles that have been distributed to thousands of animal producers and processors throughout California. Stull has developed on-hands workshops for dairy producers and veterinarians on the captive bolt method of euthanasia. One such workshop was conducted for 200 attendees at the Third International Symposium on Management of Animal Carcasses, Tissue, and Related Byproducts: Connecting Research, Regulations, and Response –held in Davis, California, in July 2009. Stull also served as the organizer of the three days of workshops, demonstrations and poster sessions for researchers, policy makers and regulators took place to review disposal technology, planning, policy and related information. At this event, participants learned about the proper use of captive bolt devices for the humane euthanasia of livestock and horses and observed the results of an animal composting project.

Free copies of Veterinary Medicine Extension articles, posters and guides may be downloaded at


John Madigan and Joanne Paul-Murphy, both faculty members based at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, are charter diplomates of the American College of Animal Welfare, announced as a new veterinary specialty in August 2012. Diplomates of this new college will design a program to educate veterinarians in the detailed knowledge and above average competence in animal welfare in all species. Members of this college will also be called upon by policy makers to provide guidance regarding the scope of legislative issues and their potential impact on animals and stakeholders

Madigan is the director of the school’s International Animal Welfare Training Institute, which facilitates training, education and dialogue for animal welfare. Among its charges is the encouragement of collaborative animal welfare research and outreach by bringing together veterinarians, animal scientists and other stakeholders to improve animal well-being. A major focus is the development of curriculum and training to educate students, veterinarians, first responders, government agency representatives and community members in emergency and disaster prevention and response methods for animals.


Through lectures and clinical training experience, the school’s four-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine professional degree curriculum prepares tomorrow’s veterinarians to understand and address the well-being of animals under their care. Health topics, production issues, client communication, veterinary ethics and related topics are actively discussed in both the formal classroom and during clinics and on-farm visits.


These and other School of Veterinary Medicine programs demonstrate the school’s commitment to the continued advancement of science and to the education of all members of the animal production system regarding the proper care, treatment and handling of livestock and poultry to produce safe food products available to consumers in California and elsewhere.

The school’s strategic initiatives specifically identify the following objectives: Addressing pressing societal issues and sharing educational expertise and best practices locally, nationally and internationally. The efforts and activities outlined above provide the foundation for future initiatives and contributions to meaningful advances in this area of veterinary medicine.