International Beef Cattle Welfare Symposium Showcases Research and Initiates Conversation for Industry Topics

By Audrey Hambright

Attendees at the 5th International Symposium on Beef Cattle Welfare receive a warm welcome to K-State.

Attendees at the 5th International Symposium on Beef Cattle Welfare receive a warm welcome to K-State.

The 5th International Symposium on Beef Cattle Welfare welcomed an innovative group of beef industry enthusiasts who gathered to discuss and learn about the current and emerging welfare issues that face the industry.

Hosted by the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University, experts from across the globe presented their most recent applied research findings to 135 on-site and online attendees. Transportation, animal handling, antimicrobial use, stockmanship and training were just a few of the topics brought to the forefront of the event.

With a large audience all ears, Dr. Joe Stookey from the University of Saskatchewan kicked off the event with a history of the symposium and its successful impact on the industry thus far. Additionally, he reviewed research on identifying factors to decrease stress during weaning.

“I think the discussion that happens at these events have great spillover later on in policy or research programs and to extension people who are helping producers adopt some of the latest technologies,” he said.

A strong line-up of speakers followed his opening over the next couple of days. Dr. Temple Grandin, professor of animal science at Colorado State University, spoke on both the improvement of handling and stunning practices at meat packing plants and the different components of good stockmanship. According to Grandin, meat packing plants and cattle handling at feedyards have really become a bright spot for the industry, but we [the industry] has to show the good things that have been done to improve. She also emphasized the patience required to attain truly good stockmanship skills.

“Stockmanship takes time, stockmanship takes effort and management needs to buy into that,” she said. “I’m a big proponent of measuring handling. Measurements prevent you from slipping back into bad becoming normal and not realizing it.”

Dr. Temple Grandin addressed animal handling and stockmanship skills.

Dr. Temple Grandin addressed animal handling and stockmanship skills.

Dr. Ron Gill, associate department head of animal science at Texas A&M University and extension livestock specialist commented on the opportunities available for all entities in attendance.

“From a research standpoint, it really allows everyone to showcase what they are doing and how they’re doing it,” he said. “Industry representatives can see what we’re doing and how it fits in with what they see for future needs for their company.”

Gill also addressed loading and unloading cattle, the facility designs that support it and what training is available for drivers who haul livestock. Plus, he analyzed training from a structural standpoint and setting it into a standard similar to the efforts made by Beef Quality Assurance.

With the upcoming changes in regulations to the Veterinary Feed Directive, antibiotics use was a much anticipated topic. Dr. Mike Apley, clinical pharmacologist at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine addressed the relationship between antimicrobial use and animal welfare. He said the challenge for the industry is to come together and define exactly why we use antibiotics and how to be responsible.

“I’m proposing that as we move forward in order to protect our ability to use antibiotics responsibly and to protect human health and suppress resistance selection is to promote responsible use rather than just elimination,” he said.

Dr. Brad White, interim director for the BCI, presented on preconditioning beef calves in preparation for the feedlot was excited for the variety of industry experts the event brought together.

“Bringing those people together in the same room has allowed us to have conversations that will help progress and move things forward for beef cattle welfare,” he said.

The next International Symposium on Beef Cattle Welfare will be held in 2018.

Watch presentations from the symposium – click here.