Farm Animals

Dehorning, trimming, and docking

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Sometimes procedures are performed to enhance animal welfare and worker safety. Here are three examples and what they mean:

Dehorning is the removal of horns from beef and dairy calves, in breeds which grow horns. This procedure is undertaken for the safety of both the animals and the people working with them. Calves suffer less pain and stress if dehorning is performed when the horns haven’t yet developed.
Beak trimming is done to prevent laying hens from hurting each other while they establish dominance in the flock (also referred to as “pecking order”). The proper procedure is to remove the tip of the beak when the birds are very young. This is done with a laser when the chick is first hatched and takes only seconds. Research continues into behaviour, nutrition, and genetics, to look for ways to eliminate the need for this procedure.
Tail docking involves shortening a sheep’s tail to a length specified in the national Sheep Code of Practice. This is done to keep manure from collecting on their tails and hindquarters, helping to prevent a condition called “flystrike”, in which flies lay eggs in manure-soiled wool, and the larvae then begin to eat the surrounding flesh. Tail docking can decrease the incidence of flystrike and reduce manure buildup on an animal, which also improves food safety, as there’s less chance of contact between meat and bacteria during processing.

Animals on the move

Livestock are sometimes moved from farm to farm as they pass through their various stages of growth. Once the piglets that are born on one farm get big enough, for example, they are moved to another, where they are raised to market weight. They are then shipped from the farm to market. Ensuring that livestock and poultry are transported safely and humanely is just as important as caring for them properly on the farm, and is a big part of responsible animal care. Canada is a big country, and sometimes distances between destinations are long. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) oversees animal transportation in Canada with regulations around weather, access to food and water, adequate space, maximum travel times, instances when animals are unfit for transport, and more. Updated regulations for the transportation of livestock were implemented in 2022 to reflect changes in technology and public expectations. For example, the length of time that animals can be in transit has been reduced, and farmers now share responsibility for the animals’ welfare with the transporter. CFIA inspectors make sure the rules are being followed.

Transport technology and logistics

Transportation systems and the logistics of moving animals have changed as well. Many new livestock trailer designs include things like non-slip floors, more ventilation, and misting lines to help cool animals in hot weather. There are also rest areas designed specifically for livestock. Facilities in the Thunder Bay area of Ontario, for example, are strategically located for animals — and truck drivers — making the long journey between western and eastern parts of the country easier in which to take a break. As in livestock barns, monitoring technologies have also made their way into livestock transportation. This approach includes systems such as Transport Genie, which monitors those conditions inside livestock trailers affecting animal comfort and welfare through a system of smart sensors. Information generated by these sensors is available to people through the supply chain, while real-time data is sent to the driver to help prevent problems. The Canadian-developed technology is currently being tested in various locations, including with Switzerland’s largest poultry producer.

Did you know...

It is illegal to do anything that causes suffering to an animal at any point during transport.