End of life is something farmers take just as seriously as the birth. Guidelines surrounding this are noted in our National Code of Practice for Handling Dairy Cattle. The Code provides detailed requirements, best management practices and guidelines on the essential elements of responsible animal care. It was developed in partnership with many organizations such as the Canadian Veterinarian Medical Association and the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. Learn more about the humane treatment of dairy animals in Kristi’s question.

Dairy producers will occasionally face situations where an animal is unlikely to respond favourably to treatment and must be euthanized on farm. It is the responsibility of livestock owners to make the right decision regarding euthanasia. Euthanasia is the humane termination of the life of an animal. The method used must be quick, cause minimal pain and distress, and must be performed correctly using acceptable industry practices.

The following are currently the only acceptable methods for on-farm euthanasia of cattle: 

    • free bullet (.22 caliber for calves, .22 magnum or high-powered rifle for mature heifers, cows and bulls)
    • penetrating captive bolt
    • non-penetrating captive bolt
    • injection with barbiturates and other drugs (administered by a licensed veterinarian). (National Code of Practice for Handling Dairy Cattle, 2009)

 Training is needed for all of these approaches. If acceptable practices aren’t followed, an investigation or charges may be enforced through the Alberta Animal Protection Act or the Criminal Code of Canada.