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|Use of hip clamps for recumbent cattle|
Use of hip clamps for recumbent cattle
Policy type: Policy
Hip clamps should only be used as specified in the Animal Welfare (Dairy Cattle) Code of Welfare 2010.
The use of hip clamps for the lifting and support of recumbent cattle is warranted only under certain clinical conditions and only with due consideration for the welfare of the animal involved. While veterinarians seldom use hip clamps themselves, many practices have such clamps available for their clients, and need to be able to give advice on appropriate use.
Hip clamps are most effective when they are used to help lift recumbent cows that are bright and alert and do not have underlying problems such as fractures or a dislocated hip. They are generally useful when a cow is weak and unable to rise (due to milk fever, calving paralysis or having been cast, for example) but, once given appropriate treatment, is likely to support her weight when raised. Cows that have been down for long periods of time are unlikely to be helped by hip clamps as muscle damage prevents them from taking their weight. In some circumstances such as fractured legs or dislocated hips, the use of hip clamps is contraindicated, therefore every effort should be made to arrive at a correct diagnosis before hip clamps are used.
Where hip clamps are used for the lifting of recumbent cattle, it is possible that severe distress, injury and bruising may occur if adequate precautions are not taken.
Animal Welfare (Dairy Cattle) Code of Welfare 2010
This Code has a section (5.9) devoted to the care of recumbent cows, including minimum standards and recommended best practices (see Appendix). The NZVA encourages practitioners to have copies of this particular section available to hand out when hip clamps are lent out.
Appendix: Animal Welfare (Dairy Cattle) Code of Welfare 2010
5.9 Caring for Recumbent Cows
There are a number of conditions and practices relating to nursing recumbent dairy cattle that can significantly compromise the welfare of the animals involved. The management of lifting cows with hip clamps or slings needs to be done correctly to prevent pain or possible injury.
Recommended best practice
(a) Any cow that is unable to stand should receive veterinary attention within 48 hours of becoming recumbent or be destroyed humanely. Recumbent cows need to be inspected frequently, kept in an upright position (i.e. lying on their sternum with legs tucked under the body), and shifted from side to side as often as possible.
i. prior to their application, a veterinary examination should be made to rule out conditions that will not respond and that will only increase pain and distress for the cow
(e) Where cow slings are used:
i. suspended animals should be inspected frequently
Hip clamps are most effective in the early stages of milk fever or post-calving paralysis, particularly when the cow is showing signs of a response to treatment. Careful diagnosis is important, as the use of a hip clamp is not appropriate where there is a fractured leg, pelvis or hip dislocation.
Repeated use of hip clamps is only acceptable if bruising and distress are minimal, some indication of progress is evident, and the clinical condition of the cow continues to warrant such use. (Note that external skin bruising is not necessarily an indication of underlying muscle damage).
Cow slings are designed to suspend the recumbent cow so that circulation in the limbs is improved. They are not suitable as an aid for the cow to stand up, because pressure on the lower abdomen of the cow triggers a reflex that relaxes her leg muscles when using such a device.
Prolonged use of the sling is only acceptable if bruising and distress are minimal, some indication of progress is evident, and the diagnosis of the clinical condition of the cow continues to warrant such use.