Ban on tail docking
Tail docking of dairy cows is a painful procedure that may also increase irritation from biting flies and cause long-term nerve damage. The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle only allow tail docking of cattle under veterinary advice to treat a tail injury or disease.
Tail docking in the dairy industry is largely based on habits, attitudes and tradition, rather than good science or real need. Farmers who have given away the practice discover that cows with full tails are just as easy to manage as those without. To minimise the problem of dirty tails, excess tail hair can simply be trimmed once or twice per year (switch trimming). Other strategies to manage cows without tail docking include calm, consistent milking practices, good dairy design, fly control and the use of tail clips.
Industry goal: No farmers practice tail docking except for therapeutic reasons.
The Australian dairy industry has for many years promoted alternatives to tail docking and supported legislation to ban tail docking. The majority of farmers have now adopted alternatives that enhance cow and operator comfort.
The 2016 Dairy Australia Animal Husbandry Survey found that:
- The vast majority of Australian dairy farmers do not dock the tails of any of their cows. Tail docking (routine or selective) is carried out on only 9% of dairy farms, down from 13% in 2014.
- Tail docking is still more prevalent on farms in higher rainfall areas (Tasmania, Western Victoria and Gippsland).
2016 Animal husbandry survey brochure (PDF, 3MB)
Myths about tail docking (PDF, 636KB)
Alternatives to tail docking (PDF, 698KB)
How to trim a cow's tail (PDF, 988KB)
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