A bill that would have required dairy cows to receive anesthesia or be seen by a veterinarian before having their tails cut failed to make it out of the General Assembly this session.
House Bill 1231 would have prohibited the routine tail-docking of dairy cows, something the bill's sponsor, Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, said is a “painful and unnecessary practice.”
However, the bill has been shelved until after the legislative session ends, rendering it dead this year. The move was made after concerns about the bill were raised by members of the agricultural community.
Tail-docking is a practice in which a tight band is put around the tail of a dairy cow, cutting off circulation before the tail falls off a few weeks later. Few farmers use this kind of method these days, but Lebsock believes that a law needs to be in place for those who do.
The practice is believed in some circles as a way to keep a cow's udder cleaner, which leads to better milk quality, as well as helping to keep udder inflammation from occurring. However, some studies have found no such benefits.
Lebsock said not only is tail-docking painful for the cow, the practice also leaves the animal without the ability to use its tail to swat away insects, or to communicate with members of its herd.
“If a dairy cow is going to provide milk for my family for five years of that cow's life, I think we should treat it halfway decent,” Lebsock told Colorado Community Media during a March 27 interview, the day after the bill died.
Leading dairy industry groups oppose routine tail-docking. However, some members of the agricultural community did not feel the matter should be put into state statute — the law would have resulted in a petty offense and a fine for offenders.
And some lawmakers said during a recent House Health, Insurance, and Environment Committee hearing that the Legislature shouldn't rush into something that they believe needs more work.
“I just think that the whole issue needs a lot more time to be worked out,” Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, said during the hearing. “I really do feel for the dairy people.”
Lebsock said he looks forward to working with the agricultural community over the summer, in hopes of introducing another version of the bill in next year's legislative session.