Meat+Poultry - August 2018 - 94


Upstream awareness
For years I have stated that the
industry should change practices and
make downer fatigued pigs disappear.
Recently I visited a US plant with
heavy market pigs and out of over
1,000 animals, there was only one
non-ambulatory downer. The pigs were
observed during truck unloading and
handling at the stunner. Even more
mind blowing was that the temperature
was over 100°F. I was with some
visitors and they were asking what the
downer hoist was for. In the days of
lots of downers, it would have been
obvious what the hoist was used for.
How did they do it? There were
three factors: 1) genetic selection
for leg conformation; 2) producers
walking through their pens to get
pigs accustomed to quietly moving
away; and 3) low-dose ractopamine or
ractopamine free. It was obvious they
had worked on genetic selection. The
bad defects, such as post legged (too
straight), collapsed ankles and twisted
legs were absent. If a pig walks on its
dew claws, the foot is abnormal. There
were no wild pigs that went crazy
when a person entered the holding
pens at the plant. On other plant
visits, I have observed that reducing
the dose of ractopamine also made
a big improvement and lowered the

percentage of downer fatigued pigs. The
bottom line is the outcome. They made
non-ambulatory fatigued pigs almost go
away, and they did it when the weather
was extremely hot. All this work had to
be done on the farm. Conditions at the
plant remained the same.

I have been in the livestock industry for
many years. Fifteen years ago, problems
with lame or fatigued feedlot cattle did
not exist. There are many reasons why.
Fed cattle today are heavier and younger.
Unfortunately, there are some producers
who are repeating the mistakes that the
pork industry is now correcting. The
same leg conformation problems that
occurred in pigs are now appearing in
some cattle. Indiscriminate selection for
carcass traits is related to poor feet and
legs. There are two main genetic defects
that can be easily observed - collapsed
ankles where the cattle walk on their
dewclaws and twisted claw (corkscrew
foot). When the animal gets older, their
toes start to cross.
There are also three other issues:
1. It is important to get cattle
accustomed to people moving in and
out of pens by a person on foot.
2. Poorly managed ractopamine use.
Hot weather can make problems worse.
Data collected from large industry
surveys shows that lameness in fed
cattle increases in the summer.
3. Raising cattle on bare concrete.
If cattle remain on bare concrete too

long, they will get swollen knee joints
and be lame.
Again, the bottom line is the
industry should make the fatigued
lame cattle problem go away. The
pork industry showed that they have
producers who have done it. The beef
industry should make sure they do
not let bad become normal. Constant
monitoring and documentation of
lameness and downers is essential.
Severely lame fed cattle should be
reported back to the feed yard.
When they rest in the plant
stockyard, normal cattle will tuck both
front feet under their bodies. This is the
normal position. If they lay down with
one leg tucked under and the other
front leg sticking straight out, that leg
is hurting. A variety of causes can make
cattle lie in this abnormal position.
It is an outcome that can be easily
observed. If the yard managers see lots
of cattle lying with an extended front
leg, it should be photographed, and the
picture sent back to the feedlot.
There are a few poor cattle feeders
who continue sending severely lame
feedlot cattle to packing plants. There
are also some animals that are crazy
wild because they are not accustomed
to people around them on foot. There
are serious welfare issues. Feed yard
managers will change their ways if they
know that if they send something nasty
to the plant, it will get photographed
and documented.
T E M P L E G R A N D I N | m e a t p o u l t r y @ s o s l a n d .c o m

The same leg conformation problems
that occurred in pigs are now
appearing in some cattle.
Rosalie Winard


MEAT+ POULTRY | 08.18 |

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