Cattle Housing Information:
How Cattle Housing Can Turn into Profits
Animal husbandry is a critical skill among European farmers, and when handled poorly, it’s the farmer who often pays the most. A recent study of 1, 500 Kenyan households found that the number of livestock illnesses were directly related to deaths in that household. This was the first time that veterinary scientists examined the relationship between farmer and cattle health, and it found a 31% increase in human illness for every 10 cases of animal sickness. Animal welfare thus is a socio-economic issue, raising income and access to healthcare. Gastrointestinal and respiratory syndromes often cross the divide from livestock to humans. Zoonotic diseases can be bacterial, fungal, or caused by parasites, all of which are reduced by excellent care and a well-designed cowshed. Animal husbandry is guided by the European Convention for the Protection of Animals as well as the European Commission’s Organic Farming legislation. These regulations are stiff, but their payoffs are well worth the extra thought and effort.
Cattle Housing – The Basics
The requirements of the EU convention leak into every aspect of animal needs, from food and care to housing. Cattle must have freedom of movement in their cowshed, which must be designed in keeping with current scientific knowledge about each species. Restrictions can cause harm and suffering, so they must be avoided, but comfort is equally important. Cowsheds must have enough lighting, ventilation, and humidity, along with adequate temperature controls. Even noise must be kept at a reasonable level. Farmers are also required to inspect the condition and health of their cattle often. In a well-populated stock farming establishment, these inspections must happen every day.
Cattle Housing – Sentience
The Treaty on the Functioning of the EU recognizes that animals are sentient beings. This principle affects the rights of all animals, which can broadly categorized as such:
- Freedom from thirst and hunger.
- Freedom from distress.
- Freedom to express natural behavior.
- Freedom from injury, illness, and pain.
- Freedom from discomfort.
These rights apply across the EU, but more stringent policies can be introduced on a national level. These five freedoms should thus be seen as the minimum. They’re not laws, but failing to observe them can cost you dearly in the form of litigation.
Cattle Housing – Organic Farming
Carrying an organic label is more than a marketing choice. It requires fully trained staff, highly defined skill sets, excellent cowshed conditions, grazing standards, and pollution, among other facets.
Densities must be controlled to reduce overgrazing, pollution, and husbandry’s effects on soil. Farming practices must protect natural resources. Stock is required to have access to open grazing areas, so tethering is banned unless medically necessary. Organic livestock must be isolated from other animals. Even the length of time spent in transportation is limited to reduce suffering. Cattle must also be fed organic feed that contains minimal additives. Diseases must be minimized with controlled stock densities and housing. Quality feed and exercise are widely accepted as tools for avoiding disease.
Cattle Housing – Breeding Regulations
Organic farmers must use natural methods of reproduction, without the help of hormones. Cloning isn’t allowed.
Cattle Housing – Combatting Bacteria Resistance
Antibiotic resistance is as critical a problem in husbandry as it is in hospitals. One of the best ways to combat the issue is through extreme cowshed hygiene. Some farmers have come up with creative and highly efficient ways to achieve high standards:
- Staff are required to change clothes before entering stables
- Hands must be washed before and after visits.
- New cattle are quarantined.
- Regular screening is done, both for staff and cattle.
It’s entirely possible to obliterate multi-resistant bacteria from a cowshed, but radical measures are needed. Exhaustive and exhausting as they are, they will ultimately prevent the slaughtering of entire herds. Preventing these kinds of infections has a direct effect on the health of staff. Farmers often act as carriers, and their contact with immune-compromised patients is potentially fatal.
Cattle Housing – Local Housing Laws
The UK’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs has its own collection of laws for the cowshed. Housing must have non-slip walkways to protect animals’ feet. Handling pens and passageways must all be free of sharp edges and bends. Farmers are encouraged to develop a written welfare strategy that includes disease prevention, stock procedures, and parasite control. Injured animals must, of course, be cared for, preferably on your own property so that sick animals aren’t subjected to difficult journeys. This demands strategically designed cowshed facilities. Handling facilities aren’t only important to the health of animals, but their handlers, too. Properly designed gates and hurdles will reduce injuries among staff dramatically, as will planning escape routes to avoid crushing. Stock bulls are a particular concern. If there isn’t enough room in the race, handlers will come off second best. Cattle that can’t see beyond the crush won’t move easily through it, which can have dire effects on staff.
Your housing isn’t designed only to keep domesticated cattle safe and comfortable, but semi-wild animals, too. There are a range of techniques to reduce kicking. Horizontal bars, restraints, and other devices are only as effective as their lifespans, so maintenance is needed. In addition, all electrical installations and insecticides need to be kept away from cattle and secured against rodents. While your electrics must be tested every few years by law, the RSPCA recommends annual inspections instead.
Cattle Housing – Temperature and Ventilation
Keeping indoor housing well ventilated and cooled presents challenges. Air needs to move through the buildings without creating droughts or letting extreme weather in. Insulation will help tremendously with this. Partially roofed units that provide enough shade can be useful during hot summers, with straw yards offering good drainage and dry bedding. The RSPCA recommends a minimum lying area of about 1.5 square meters per 100 kg. This complies with British Standards, so it can be used as a rule of thumb. To keep all cattle safe, keep your group sizes uniform, with large adult cattle separated from calves.
Cattle Housing – Indications of Poor Housing
If your cattle housing is inadequate, it will show on your cattle. These are a few signs that your cowshed needs work:
- Soft feet and bruised soles.
- Infections between the digits.
- Scar tissue.
- Broken tails.
Veterinary experts are still learning new ways to keep cattle healthy. Over time, the cowshed has come to represent an entire ecosystem, affecting the health of everyone involved. Every year, new regulations are introduced as scientists learn the weaknesses of existing ethics. European farmers face stiffer regulations than most, so it can be challenging to balance competitiveness and profitability. The cyclical nature of the industry can be combatted by the sale of calves and feed as well as cover crop rotation.