Temple Grandin on Cattle Welfare

Conversations with Clive: #3
November 17, 2022

Professor Temple Grandin is a faculty member with Animal Sciences in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Colorado State University.

In November 2022, Professor Grandin talked to Clive Phillips for the Conversation with Clive series. In this series, leading farm animal welfare scientists and academic experts share with Clive Phillips their thoughts and experience of farm animal welfare issues, including those related to intensive animal farming systems.

Timing of key topics discussed in the 45 minutes conversation:

  • 00:00 Clive introduces Temple Grandin: Her designs to relieve distress for cattle in slaughter plants, her autism giving her a unique insight into the sensitivities of cattle, her skills as an educator and in having industry and governments adopt her advice to improve cattle welfare.
  • 06:08 What's important for cattle: Sight is dominant, especially with things they are afraid of (e.g. shadows or a piece of string jiggling). Respond strongly to human handling, so good/bad handling matters a lot to cattle welfare.
  • 08:40 Feedlots: Feedlots vary from excellently to very badly run. Welfare problems include mud, nutrition, dust. Must measure things (e.g. heat stress, lameness) and use simple scores helpful for welfare auditors from retailers. Riding behavior not currently a big problem. Heat stress problem - need to use shade and different breeds. Parasites and flies.
  • 15:00 Rangeland and pasture systems: Cattle may not have enough to eat. Lots of rangelands are lands that cannot be cropped. New technology (e.g. drones, virtual fencing). Basic principles - green part above ground regenerates faster than roots; how to move cattle to let pasture regenerate is very local.
  • 16:55 Semi-intensive systems: Cattle goes lame if left too long on slats. Need to monitor (e.g. resting position, swollen legs). In some parts of the world cattle are really lame.
  • 18:25 Not in favor of really intensive systems. One must measure outcomes (e.g. dirtiness, lameness, swollen joints).
  • 19:16 Transport: Animals transported must be fit (e.g. not too old and deteriorated). Good driving makes a difference. Don't overload. Rather have cattle in Australia outback slaughtered there than transport them by ship to Middle East, but problem with logistics (e.g. refrigerated containers with carcasses going out do not have suitable goods to bring back).
  • 22:00 Slaughter: Saw a slaughterplant in Indonesia with modest equipment that shows it is possible to "do it right". Not only need the right equipment, but the right people to manage it. Hired by McDonalds and others to teach their auditors to use simple scoring system. When a big retailer enforces a standard, it makes a difference. The system is used all over the world.
  • 26:40 Calving issues: Problems with breeds.
  • 28:40 Pain relief: Cannot measure whether pain relief is used. How to use pain relief (which has abuse potential).
  • 31:30 Need to have good quality stock people that are not overworked, not just equipment.
  • 32:55 Stewardship of the land: Getting more interested in this issue. Grazing is an important part of a sustainable agricultural future. The issue of methane. Crop monoculture is not good.
  • 36:55 Antibiotics: Need to cut down usage.
  • 38:35 The future: Hope to see rotation systems with crops. Raising cattle is part of a sustainable future. The right amount of grazing needs to be done. Australians need to go to countries where they sent their live cattle to make sure slaughter is done right. Industry and retailers (e.g. McDonalds) can make change, but requests to them for change need to be sensible (e.g. no need to buy costly equipment). Problem with "big" is that it is fragile, unlike small niche markets.
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