Most new livestock standards are commonsense practices


Now that Ohio’s livestock care standards, as developed by the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, are officially signed into law, what exactly does that mean on a daily basis for Ohio’s livestock producers? Aside from the well-publicized housing standards and related transition periods, and adjustments some people building new facilities will have to make, the standards change very little in terms of daily care for livestock and poultry.

“Most of the rest of the standards for swine are good management practices we expect our producers to follow anyway,” said Dick Isler, executive vice president of the Ohio Pork Producers Council. “They’re basically just good, standard management practices.”

That sentiment is echoed by the leaders of all of Ohio’s livestock commodity groups.

“A lot of these standards are what beef producers have been doing for a long time with quality, everyday care of their animals,” said Elizabeth Harsh, executive director of the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association (OCA).

Specific standards have been established for bovine, bovine veal, equine, poultry, swine, and sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas. The points, by species, that may require some attention to detail or adjustments by producers, include:


• Newborn dairy and beef calves must be offered colostrum or a colostrum replacement within 24 hours of birth.

• If tie stalls are used for beef or dairy cattle, the animals must be provided with the opportunity for exercise (weather permitting). Also, if tie stalls or stanchions are used for dairy cattle, the animals must have room to stand, lie down, eat, drink, defecate and urinate comfortably.

• When dehorning, if the horn is no longer covered with hair, a pain management practice must be used.

• Until Dec. 31, 2017, tail docking can continue to be performed on dairy cattle, but only using elastrator castration bands in a manner that will result in the least amount of pain and only under the advice and consent of a licensed veterinarian. Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, tail docking can only be performed by a licensed veterinarian and only if medically necessary.

While dehorning practices can differ by farm, “We haven’t heard anyone bring the dehorning standards up as an issue that won’t work in their operation,” Harsh said.

She said OCA plans to discuss the standards’ implications for beef producers more specifically during a series of cattle industry meetings held this winter.

While the bovine standards were fair and reasonable with no surprises, the tail docking standards for dairy cattle have producers nearly evenly split for and against the change, said Scott Higgins, CEO of the Ohio Dairy Producers Association.

“There are some who really feel that practice is necessary and important to producing high-quality milk and maintaining a quality, safe work environment for their employees,” Higgins said.

The six-year transition allows producer time to adjust to other methods such as switch trimming, or they have time to help with research and provide additional data to the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board that could sway them to change the standard, he said.

“Our message to dairy farmers is just do the right thing, and if there is something they are concerned about within the standards, or have questions about, don’t be afraid to ask or bring those things to the Board’s attention,” Higgins said.


Bovine veal

• By Jan. 1, 2018, veal calves must be housed in a manner that allows them to turn around. By 10 weeks of age, they must be housed in group pens containing at least two calves with a minimum area of 14 square feed per calf.

• If veal calves are not provided free choice access to feed, special fed and bob veal valves must be fed two or more times per day following a regular routine.

• For veal barns in which natural light is not available, artificial light must be provided for at least eight hours a day so that calves can observe each other.

Aside from the pending group housing requirements for veal calves, which have been the source of the greatest debate during creation of Ohio’s livestock care standards, the rest of the veal standards are already met by Ohio veal producers or can be achieved with some easy adjustments, said Bob Cochrell, a veal producer from Burbank and past American Veal Association president.

“On the veal side, we have a much more heightened awareness that all the things we do in the barn have to fall under the best care practices and be video acceptable to the public at all times,” Cochrell said.



• Tail docking of horses can be performed as a proactive measure to prevent injury, or if medically necessary such as in the case of accident, malformation or disease, and must be performed by a licensed veterinarian.

• Stallions and jacks must be separated from other equine animals during transport.

• Suckling foals must be transported separately from other animals and, unless the health and safety of the foal is compromised, must be transported with their dams.



• If performed in a humane manner, the following livestock management procedures are permitted in order to minimize injury to the birds: beak conditioning; general toenail conditioning in layers and turkeys; male back toe conditioning in broilers; dewclaw and snood conditioning in turkeys; caponizing in broilers; dubbing; and, induced molting.

• Free-range or pastured broilers and turkeys (birds housed outside) must have reasonable protection from adverse weather conditions and from predators.

• The rules prohibit the installation of conventional battery cages at any farm that is not an “existing farm” as of Sept. 29, 2011.

• Farms not defined as “existing farms,” and wishing to use a cage system, may only use an enriched cage system.

• When inducing molting, only non-feed withdrawal methods may be used.

“From a commercial standpoint, the industry has transitioned to these standards, and there are no major causes for concern,” said Jim Chakeres, executive vice president, Ohio Poultry Association.


Sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas

• All newborn lambs, kids and crias must be offered colostrum or a colostrum replacement within 24 hours of birth.

• Llamas and alpacas must be provided with the opportunity for socialization with a herding animal. Herding animals include (but are not limited to) llamas, alpacas, sheep or goats.

• When dehorning goats after the horn is no longer covered by hair, a pain management practice must be used.

• Sheep and goat breeds that do not naturally shed their hair/wool must be shorn regularly.

“There’s nothing really written in these that is a major change in what we do in terms of animal care. We tell producers to keep doing the things you’ve been doing. If you’re doing a good job, you won’t have to change anything,” said Roger High, executive director, Ohio Sheep Improvement Association.

High said producers of all species need to pay close attention to their specific euthanasia standards, so they know how to do it, what methods are permitted and when they need to take action. The requirement for colostrum or a colostrum replacement for all newborn lambs, kids and crias also could require some adjustment for producers on health programs that pull newborns at birth.



• Group housing methods for pregnant sows (after confirmation of pregnancy) must be used by the end of the year 2025.

• Any new construction or new construction on an existing facility cannot use gestation stalls except to maximize embryonic welfare until the confirmation of pregnancy.

• Existing facilities can be replaced (in the case of catastrophic events such as fire, flood, wind or building collapse) until Dec. 31, 2025.

• Farrowing stalls will continue to be allowed for use on all existing and new farms.

For more, see the Mid-October Issue of Ohio’s Country Journal.

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