Tail shortening of cattle

Tail shortening of cattle

Policy type: Policy
: 5g
: Current
Date ratified
: 1 October 2011

The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) is opposed to the shortening of cattle tails except for veterinary medical reasons.


The Animal Welfare (Painful Husbandry Procedures) Code of Welfare 2005 limits tail shortening in cattle to the last two or three vertebrae of the tail. The NZVA policy on bovine tail shortening of cattle is in line with its policy (3b) that opposes physical alterations to the natural state of animals unless they are demonstrably necessary for the welfare of the animals concerned.

The practice of docking the tails of dairy cows was originally adopted to reduce contamination of both milking staff and cow udders. However, subsequent studies (Matthews et al 1995) found that leptospirosis and mastitis levels were no different in docked and undocked cows. The 2005 code has allowed switch removal “to improve comfort for milking personnel and enhance milking efficiency”, but recommends that alternative solutions are tried first. The NZVA is of the opinion that non-surgical alternatives are available in the form of regular cleaning and trimming of the hair in those few cows where this is a problem, especially now that automated tail trimmers are available.


Animal Welfare (Painful Husbandry Procedures) Code 2005, Code of Welfare No 7

Mackintosh CG, Schollum LM, Harris RE, Blackmore DK, Willis AF, Cook NR & Stoke JCJ. Epidemiology of leptospirosis in dairy farm workers in the Manawatu Part I: A cross-sectional serological survey and associated occupational factors. New Zealand Veterinary Journal 28, 245-50, 1980

Matthews, L.R., A. Phipps, G.A. Verkerk, D. Hart, J.N. Crockford, J.F. Carragher, and R.G. Harcourt. 1995. The effects of taildocking and trimming on milker comfort and dairy cattle health, welfare and production. Animal Behaviour and Welfare Research Centre, Hamilton, N.Z.