Clean Livestock Policy for Cattle


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Safety First. Quality Always. Innovating for the Future. 

Beef producers who deliver clean cattle for slaughter are playing their role in the production of  safe food that consumers can have confidence in.

The 3 Category System classifies cattle cleanliness as the following:

A - Satisfactory

Cattle with a clean, dry hide can be slaughtered without an unacceptable risk of contaminating the meat during the slaughter process, by using the standard hygienic dressing procedures routinely employed by the slaughter plant. Cleanest hide score for cattle displaying only a light covering of dried faecal material and can therefore be slaughtered without causing unacceptable risk of contamination to meat during the slaughter processes.

B - Acceptable

Cattle that can be slaughtered without an unacceptable risk of contamination of the meat during the slaughter process, by putting in place extra defined hygienic dressing controls such as online clipping, costing the farmer money. These cattle will be held until the end of the day to be slaughtered with the line slowed down. Some amounts of dry dirt/faeces on fore and hind legs and areas such as underside of abdomen, lower ribcage. These cattle are deemed acceptable for slaughter without posing an unacceptable risk to meat contamination, when additional dressing controls are put in place. This is in the form of hide clipping which is carried out on all category B cattle and slowing the process line.

C - Unacceptable

Cattle unfit for slaughter because of hide condition. These cattle must not be presented for slaughter and will not be sent for ante-mortem in this condition. These cattle will be held overnight to allow the hides to dry. This delays the slaughter process and adds cost. Very heavy and wet dirt/faecal contamination on hide. These cattle are deemed unfit for slaughter due to hide condition. These cattle must be kept in the lairage until the next kill day and provided with plenty of dry bedding, feed and water – cattle cleanliness must then be reassessed prior to ante mortem inspection.

Why do we need a policy?

  • Clean livestock presented for slaughter minimise the risk of product contamination, protecting consumer health, promoting consumer confidence in the product.
  • It helps secure Ireland’s and Dawn Meats reputation as a leading exporter of safe, sustainable, quality food.
  • Farmers, hauliers and processors all have a role to play in reducing the risk of food contamination following the transport of livestock.
  • Unsuitable cattle hides presented at slaughter may result in cattle being downgraded or may need online clipping costing farmers money.

Key Messages 

  • Harmful bacteria found on dirty hides such as Clostridium estertheticum and Clostridium gasigenes can be easily transferred to the carcase. These bacteria can easily cause food spoilage costing millions of euro.
  • Sending dirty cattle to slaughter increases the risk of E. coli 0157, Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination putting consumers at risk.
  • Dirty cattle cost money and risk damaging beef and hide international markets.
  • Present dry cattle for slaughter only. 

Pre-transport Management 

  • Do not mix unfamiliar groups of cattle.
  • Long tails should be trimmed at housing time.
  • Avoid overstocking and understocking cattle on slats. Keep straw bedding regularly topped up.
  • Remove low DM feed 48 hours preslaughter and replace with hay, straw or high DM silage.
  • Sheds should be well ventilated keeping cattle clean and dry.
  • Always have clean drinking water available.

Transport Tips 

  • Poor transport conditions may result in clean animals becoming contaminated.
  • Vehicles and trailers should be well ventilated to avoid stock sweating.
  • Ensure vehicle is clean, dry and disinfected between loads.
  • Avoid loading cattle that are very wet or in wet conditions.
  • Where decks are in use, make sure urine/faeces from higher decks do not soil cattle on lower decks.
  • Ensure vehicles comply with relevant road safety laws, stocking densities and permissible road weight limits.
  • For animals transported distances greater than 65 km, use DAFM authorised hauliers only.