Non-Ambulatory Cows for FARM V4.0

For more complete information on Non-ambulatory cows and the FARM v4.0 Program go to:

  • Facilities should have a designated location to segregate weak, sick or injured animals.
  • Non-ambulatory animals that cannot be carried should be moved using an appropriate mechanism.  In all situations, animals must be restrained appropriately as to not risk or cause additional injury. 
  • Appropriate mechanisms for movement include: 
  • Sled 
  • Belting with reinforced sides 
  • Sling 
  • Skid steer bucket large enough to hold the entire animal 
  • Palleted forklift with a pallet platform to fit over the forks 
  • Angle the pallet’s leading edge to form a ramp for rolling the cow onto the pallet
  • Equip the pallet with straps to prevent the animal from falling off 
  • Never use exposed forks 

Appropriate Procedure for Non-Ambulatory Animal Movement: 

  1. Best practice is to have at least 3 people available to transfer the animal onto the movement mechanism. One person to run the equipment, and the other 2 to move the animal onto the movement device. To ensure the safety of the animal, individuals should walk alongside the animal and the movement device. 
  2. Gently roll a non-ambulatory animal onto the movement device.  If the animal goes down in a pen or alley, plywood or belting may be attached to a truck or tractor that can be driven slowly and carefully to a transfer point. 
  3. Carefully transfer the animal from the plywood or belting to an appropriate movement device as listed above. When utilizing any of these methods, proper restraint of the animal should be utilized. 

Except for emergency cases where an animal must be moved a few feet before an appropriate movement device can be used (e.g. if a cow becomes non-ambulatory in the milking parlor and the animal is likely to recover and have a good quality of life), cattle are not to be pulled, dragged or otherwise moved horizontally or vertically by mechanical force that is applied directly to the animal. Specifically, hips lifts/clamps should never be used to move animals, only to lift and lower them and the animal should never be raised with any device to where her feet cannot touch the ground.  If the animal must be dragged because no other moving alternative exists or because it can only be saved by dragging (e.g. if a cow falls into a manure pit where the likelihood of drowning is imminent), pad non-injured limbs and use padded belts to which a rope, chain or cable can be attached. Drag the animal the shortest possible distance to a point where a better method of moving can be employed. If this procedure cannot be done humanely, then the animal is to be euthanized in place and then moved.

  • When an animal becomes non-ambulatory it should receive prompt medical evaluation and care to decide to treat or euthanize. 
  • Non-ambulatory animals should be separated from the ambulatory animals in the herd and protected from heat and cold along with predators as to prevent further damage to the animal and to allow for enhanced medical treatment. 
  • A non-ambulatory animal should have access to clean water and feed. Water should be provided multiple times and brought directly to the non-ambulatory animal throughout the day and night. The diet of a non-ambulatory animal may need to be adjusted from its healthy counterparts based on its feed intake abilities and special considerations for its illness or injury.
  • A hospital or sick pen that isolates the animal(s) and maximizes animal comfort is best practice. The location should provide feed and water, protection from heat, cold and predators, and isolation from any ambulatory animals.