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New Animal Welfare Group Explores Partnerships at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine

September 12, 2008

Societal views of animals have evolved to a higher level of concern for animal well-being and humane treatment of all animals, including those in agriculture. The School of Veterinary Medicine has formed a new division, the International Animal Welfare Training Institute, to examine and address animal welfare issues in many species. 

Faculty of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, veterinary experts in practice and members of the beef and dairy industries met Friday, September 5, 2008 at the school to develop new approaches and examine practices that will benefit the welfare of food animals.

Meeting participants shared ideas that take into account the animal welfare concerns of consumers and farmers alike, including science-based welfare practices.

Jim Reynolds, DVM a faculty member based at the Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center, Tulare, and chair of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Animal Welfare Committee, suggested several ways for producers to seek help from their veterinarians to conduct assessments and implement sound welfare practices.

He emphasized, "Owners' values and attitudes influence welfare more than the size of a farm." 

Matt Byrne, Executive Director of the California Cattlemen's Association, stated that the 2008 Hallmark slaughterhouse video of disabled animals became the catalyst for different types of producers to address welfare issues as a group. "Recognizing that consumers do not always see the distinction among different kinds of cows," he stated, "we need to address the issues, good and bad. The sale or transport of non-ambulatory cattle and those at risk of going down is unacceptable," he said. 

Participants discussed the need for more science-based information to determine the most effective way to improve animal welfare in livestock. They outlined several existing programs and potential research projects:

•          Measurement of animal stress and pain

•          Length of time of animal transport and transport conditions

•          Optimal training methods for producers and animal handlers

•          Bridging gaps in implementation of welfare strategies

•          On-farm assessments and welfare audits

•          Providing the most humane end of life for agricultural animals, appropriate techniques, and training in methods approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association

•          Costs of welfare practices

•          Roles of producers, animal health technicians and employees

•          Demonstrating and communicating welfare successes

•          Tapping outreach opportunities--for example, at auction sites

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At the meeting's conclusion, Professor John Madigan, DVM--using a specialized sling system developed at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital--demonstrated how to lift a recumbent cow safely into a therapeutic floatation tank for cattle where  the animal can be supported while recovering from a fall, a difficult birth on a dairy, or other medical conditions.

Madigan and Tracey Stevens-Martin are leading the school's newest initiative, the International Animal Welfare Training Institute, one of the meeting sponsors. Carolyn Stull, Veterinary Medicine Extension, heads the livestock segment of animal welfare improvements. The group is identifying and seeking solutions for issues of animal welfare in many species, including livestock, horses, companion species and service animals. The faculty are  identifying animal welfare concerns, research opportunities and needs, and seeking support from the public to implement science-based improvements. The  institute also serves to train and educate students, community members, and government representatives in disaster planning and emergency response for animals.

One of the first efforts led by Stull was a workshop July 9 at the Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center, Tulare, where institute faculty taught 60 dairy producers, cattlemen, government veterinarians and private practitioners new methods of caring for non-ambulatory cows  and providing a humane end of life for farm animals. (See press release on July 9 animal welfare workshop: )

Dean Bennie Osburn encouraged attendees to take advantage of the veterinary perspective and the school's expertise regarding science-based approaches to improving animal well-being. He suggested, "We can be your research arm if you request."

More information about farm animal welfare, including the 2007 publication, "A Review of the Causes, Prevention, and Welfare of Nonambulatory Cattle," is available at


Contact: John Madigan, Director, International Animal Welfare Training Institute,