Tail Docking

Eze, XL & Tri-Bander Bloodless Castrators can be used for this process

Docking Tails


According to Larry Hutchinson, professor of veterinary science at Penn State, removing two-thirds of a cow's tail - a practice called "Docking - is catching on as producers with large herds change over to parallel parlors. In parallels, the cow's tail becomes a physical and sanitary obstacle.

"One of the biggest questions about tail docking is how the cow can control flies without a tail," Hutchinson says. "In reality, the cow's tail is a pretty ineffective fly control. In fact, when a cow flicks a manure-laden tail onto its back, it tends to attract more flies."

Cows can have their tails surgically removed by a veterinarian, or producers can remove the tail by using an elastrator, rubber bands that cut off circulation. "The tail will fall off within two to four weeks," Hutchinson says. "It's better for the cows if the tails are docked within the first two months of life because the blood vessels in the tail are less developed in young calves. But you can use this method on adult cows as well."

Hutchinson suggests that producers who have no experience in docking tails should consult with their veterinarian for a recommended procedure. Hutchinson says studies have shown that cows experience a little stress when their tails are docked using an elastrator. "There are no observable signs of stress or pain, and cortisol -an enzyme that indicates pain levels - remains unchanged." Hutchinson recommends leaving one-third of the tail. Cutting the tail to short may result in vaginal infections, but it can act as a club if it is cut to long. The remaining stub should be large enough to hold onto when restraining a cow. It also can be moved aside easily during insemination, lessening the chance of contamination. "Many producers, particularly those who show cattle, choose not to dock tails," he says. "As producers seek more efficient methods, the practice probably will become more common in the next decade or two."