DENVER (AP) — The backside of Colorado's dairy cows was the focus of a contentious debate Thursday in a state House committee, which ultimately postponed a vote on a bill that would prevent farmers from cutting cattle tails for sanitary reasons.
The bill before the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee would ban so-called docking except when performed by a veterinarian using anesthesia.
The most common way to dock a tail is to use a tight rubber ring to cut off circulation, said Tom Parks, a cattle veterinarian in Yuma. The ring remains for one to two months until as much as two-thirds of the tail falls off.
By cutting off the part of the tail, some farmers believe they protect workers from disease and helping to keep cow udders — and milk — clean.
That's the reason Norm Dinis of Empire Dairy in Wiggins docks the tails of his herd. Dinis, whose farm has 5,500 cows, said his family started docking young cows' tails to promote hygiene.
"We found on our farm that long tails spread debris on cows' backs, which in turn attracts flies," Dinis said.
Dinis said he intends to continue docking tails, assuming state law allows it, even though the National Milk Producers Federation has denounced the practice and recommends dairies phase it out by 2022.
The milk producers federation, the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and others have come out against tail docking because research has found it doesn't make milk or workers safer. The groups also argue tail docking robs cows of their built-in fly swatters and causes pain.
California, Rhode Island and New Jersey have banned tail docking. Ohio will stop the practice in 2018.
As many as half of U.S. farms cut the tails of at least some of their cows, said Chris Galen, a spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation. But in Colorado, no more than a handful of farms dock tails, said Holly Tarry, state director for the Humane Society.
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