Fitness for Transport FARM V4.0
For more complete information on Fitness for Transport and the FARM v4.0 Program go to: https://nationaldairyfarm.com/farm-animal-care-version-4-0/
The facility has an effective written protocol for fitness to transport that includes the definition of animals that are eligible to be marketed and outlines adherence to milk and meat withdrawal times.
Dairy animals are an important source of beef in the United States. Approximately 20 percent of the nation’s total beef production on an annual basis comes from the dairy sector, including fed dairy cattle and marketed cows and bulls. This chapter specifically focuses on considerations for the marketing of dairy animals for beef production. For information on animal care for beef animals (including dairy steers) please follow the guidelines of the Beef Quality Assurance Program.
Marketing a dairy animal as beef is an important part of dairy farming. A dairy farmer must ensure the appropriateness of transitioning a dairy animal to the beef sector.
In best practice, an animal should NOT be marketed if:
- The animal is non-ambulatory
- There is a reasonable chance it will become non-ambulatory at any time from leaving the farm to the slaughter facility
- Does not meet the food safety requirements for withdrawal periods or disease
- Animals are in poor body condition (less than BCS score 2)
- Animals have not met all treatment withdrawal times for milk and meat
- If calving is imminent and likely to occur during the transportation or marketing process
- If the animal has bone fractures of the limbs or injuries to the spine
- Animals have conditions that will not pass pre-slaughter inspection at a packing or processing facility. o If unsure, consult with your veterinarian before transporting an animal to a packing or processing facility.
USDA inspectors are instructed to look for animals that present a possible risk to the food supply and look for signs of disease or recent administration of animal health products to determine if an animal should be subjected to additional testing and possible removal from the food chain. In best practice, the dairy retains treatment records for at least 2 years.
Dairy producers should not transport animals with conditions that are unlikely to pass pre-slaughter inspection. These conditions include, but are not limited to:
- Cancer eye, blindness in both eyes
- Drug residues
- Fever greater than 103°F
- Cows that are calving or have a high likelihood of calving during transport
- Fractures or lameness (3 or greater on the FARM locomotion scale)
- Distended udders causing pain and ambulatory issues
- Unreduced prolapses
- Visible open wounds
- Suspected central nervous system symptoms
Conditions that Warrant Additional Testing at USDA Slaughter Facilities:
- Peritonitis and surgery
- Injection sites
- Other disease symptoms
- Signs of treatment
Transporters play a critical role in the health and welfare of dairy cattle. The proper handling and transport of cattle can reduce sickness and injury, prevent bruises and improve the quality of the meat from these animals. In best practice, animal transporters are trained in how to properly move cattle up and onto the trailer, distribute cattle correctly on the trailer, employ hauling techniques that reduce cattle stress and handle emergency situations. Additionally, dairy producers are encouraged to have transporters sign a Cow Care Agreement indicating that they have received basic stockmanship training and agree to treat all animals humanely.
Loading and Unloading
Under best practice, animals are loaded and unloaded for transit in a manner that minimizes stress. The process of being moved, especially if it involves a loading chute, is a potentially stressful experience to many animals. In best practice, 3 measures should be taken to minimize stress: (1) train animal caretakers in proper loading and unloading practices, (2) properly locate and design loading areas and, (3) minimize the number of directional changes an animal must take. Prods, canes and other cattle handling aids are only used as a last resort, in emergency situations, and not in routine animal handling.
Animal caretakers should observe proper loading densities and plan to load or unload animals at the time of day that is best for moving the animals. In best practice, sufficient labor and appropriate equipment and/or facilities (i.e. ramps) are available for loading or unloading animals.
Trucks and Trailers
Trucks and trailers have an impact on animal care. Even though transport vehicles are not stationary, they are facilities that require the same consideration for cow comfort and needs. These include (1) clean/disinfected truck or trailer when moving young stock or cull cows, (2) sides high enough to prevent animals from jumping over them, (3) nonslip flooring that provides secure footing (avoid abrasive floor and wall surfaces), (4) ventilation and proper bedding to protect animals from weather extremes, and (5) adequate vehicle covering to protect animals from adverse weather.
Proper in-transit care will minimize animal injuries, bruises and carcass damage, which can impair the animals’ well-being and value. In best practice, transport crews are knowledgeable about animal care expectations and skilled in handling animals properly. In general, chances for injuries decrease when animals on a truck are confined in several smaller groups. Weak or unhealthy animals are only shipped to a veterinarian (not to a processing facility) and segregated from healthy cows during loading and during transit. Additional care should be provided to cows that are weak or unhealthy during transport.
An adequate amount of time for the trip should be allotted to include periodic checking of the condition of the animals. Drivers should start and stop the vehicle smoothly and slow down for curves and corners. If an animal falls in transit, it should be helped to its feet, provided it does not pose a risk to the handler, and possibly segregated from the other animals for the rest of the trip. Provisions for water should be made immediately upon arrival at destination and provisions for feed should be made if the trip takes more than 24 hours. Feeding high-fiber dry feed for 48-to-72 hours before shipping reduces the moisture content of manure and improves air quality, animal comfort and hygiene. In best practice, all workers and handlers are properly trained in handling dairy animals and have a basic understanding of typical dairy cattle behavior. All state and national regulations regarding transportation should be followed.