310. There are a number of reasons which result in a cow becoming recumbent and, while cases can occur at any time, the "Downer Cow" syndrome is most commonly associated with parturition. Causes include milk fever, nerve damage during calving, fracture of the pelvis, acute toxic mastitis and, commonly, fear and apprehension due to repeated attempts to rise and stand on slippery, smooth floors. It is important to realise that nursing, which includes turning the animal from one side to the other (at least five to six times daily) on a well-bedded surface, is essential to recovery. Lack of nursing can result in a transient condition turning into permanent recumbancy.
311. Before attempting to use lifting gear, a careful examination of the recumbent cow by a veterinary surgeon is essential to assess the likely cause, prognosis and appropriate treatment.
312. The cow should be carefully moved, as soon as possible, to a soft non-slip surface. Examples are a deeply-bedded pen or a grass field (if the weather is suitable). If after a suitable period the cow is still unable to rise, it may be worthwhile attempting to lift her using lifting gear under the supervision of the attending veterinary surgeon.
313. There are a number of different types of lifting gear including:
It can be useful to use shackles or hobbles to assist with the positioning of the hind legs of the cow. Some types of cattle hoist may cause considerable damage to the hip bones and overlying soft tissues with bruising and excoriation. It is therefore essential to have the additional support of an inflatable bag or net.
314. Keeping an animal in pain on a farm, or permitting it so to be kept, as opposed to arranging for appropriate treatment or humane slaughter, could lead to prosecution under the provisions of The Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968 or The Protection of Animals Act 1911.
315. Any recumbent cow must be examined by a veterinary surgeon before the farmer attempts to use lifting gear and, initially, the veterinary surgeon should supervise the operation.
316. Where time cannot be given to proper nursing, casualty slaughter or humane destruction on-farm should be considered at an early stage. It is an offence to transport an animal that is incapable of rising. It should either be slaughtered on-farm or loaded in the presence, and under the supervision, of a veterinary surgeon for it to be transported to a place for veterinary treatment.
317. Whatever type of lifting gear is used, care must be taken not to cause unnecessary pain or unnecessary distress to the animal.
318. The recumbent cow should be isolated, her movement restricted and she should be visited, at suitable intervals, by a veterinary surgeon who will assess her condition.
319. The Government should examine the welfare implications of any apparatus which cannot lift the cow without damage or pain.