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Cattle spaying

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Ratification Date: 27 Jul 2012

Policy

Cattle can be spayed by veterinarians using the Willis spay technique until suitable alternatives are developed.

The surgical flank spaying of cattle may only be performed by veterinarians with the use of appropriate anaesthesia and analgesia.

Animals must be assessed by the veterinarian to be sufficiently healthy to undergo the procedure. Animals showing signs of disease, weakness or emaciation should not be spayed by any technique.

Background

Long-term contraception of cattle can benefit the welfare and production of animals where females cannot be segregated from males and in other, limited, circumstances. In extensive pastoral conditions, contraception enables cull females to survive and achieve marketable body condition by preventing the stress of mismanaged pregnancy, calving and lactation.

Spaying of cattle is a widely practised husbandry procedure in northern Australia and will continue as the only low-cost method of contraception until new technologies become available.

The Willis spay technique involves transvaginal separation of the ovary, which is then left in the abdominal cavity. Since the advent of this technique, the use of and need for surgical flank spaying has declined considerably. It is likely that surgical flank spaying will eventually no longer be necessary and will be eliminated.

Laws in some states permit the spaying of cattle by non-veterinary lay operators.

Other recommendations

The Australian Veterinary Association strongly supports research into non-invasive means of controlling oestrus and conception in cattle management systems with a view to removing the need for surgical spaying.

References

McCosker K, Letchford P. Petherick JC, Meyer D, McGowan M. Morbidity, mortality and body weight gain of surgical spayed, yearling Braham heifers. Australian Veterinary Journal 2010;88:497–503.

Date of ratification by AVA Board 27 July 2012