Rachael Fouhy

As I write this we are starting our compulsory lockdown which is an interesting process as a vet. Large Animal work, mostly beef pregnancy testing, continues almost as normal and keeping a two-metre distance isn’t too hard.

However, one of my favourite parts, sitting around having a yarn and a cuppa afterwards isn’t quite the same. Operations within our small animal clinic and from a retail side have changed considerably, which takes a while to get your head around.

Vet Certs/Works certs are a common form of documentation we are asked to write for farmers, they have a few pitfalls and are not without frustration. I thought I’d cover off a few of the key considerations we undertake when writing these.

Your local vet’s role is to certify that the animal is fit for transport, according to set and specified criteria, set by the Ministry for Primary Industries. If we certify an animal outside this criteria we are answerable to MPI. Many vets will no longer write works certificates as they have had negative experiences from either farmers, MPI or both. Please be understanding if we decline to write you a vet cert for a particular animal, it’s nothing personal.

Your local vet’s role is to certify that the animal is fit for transport, according
to set and specified criteria, set by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Timing: By far and away this can be the most frustrating part of the whole process.

Legally we can only authorise a cert for seven days, in some conditions such as remoteness, it can be extended a few days.

The reasoning for this is so that the condition of the animal doesn’t deteriorate in the time after the cert was written. The only time I’d consider writing an extended cert is for a chronic injury, eg: an old bull lame after mating. Key point – arrange for a works cert after your animal is booked in and you have a rough idea when they will go. I appreciate this is not always easy.

Condition of the animal: Rules regarding no blood or discharging wounds are quite black and white, things that are less black and white include broken penises which are hanging out (normally okay) and animals that have had eczema.

Friesian bulls that have had eczema as a calf that has never really healed fall very much into the grey area. If their wounds have healed completely they are fine, those that bleed from time to time are not. Key considerations include: will it bleed during transport and what will it look like after it has been washed at the yards – not a part of transport, but a key consideration MPI takes on board when they give us feedback on our decisions.

Eyes are another area which can cause some debate. No discharge and no growths greater than 1cm diameter. Tear staining and blinking from a small growth is considered painful and therefore these animals are not considered fit for transport. The growth on the eye pictured above is considered too large to go, even though it was not bleeding or causing the eye to weep.

Lameness is another issue we commonly certify for.

These cases follow a set criteria of rules, regarding weight bearing, length of stride and other traits.

Lameness often has set criteria about cattle being on the lower deck, first on and first off.

When sending lame cattle, my preference is to send them with herd mates, so they are not alone in a pen and can be supported by others.

We often get asked about horns and the old rule of thumb about them being inside the ears. The main reason for this is so they fit in the stun box and can easily drop out. I recently watched an animal get stuck in the box – it wasn’t very nice.

There is a specified time frame from dehorning to transport which needs to be adhered to.

Which Works: This also can cause some frustration. We are required to certify animals to go to the nearest processing plant. Once again this is an MPI requirement.

I’m fortunate in my areas that there are three or four options for farmers all within a short distance of each other. However, not all farmers supply these plants and I appreciate that it is frustrating when we decline a certificate for an animal to go to your normal plant.

Please be understanding of this and be prepared to arrange another processing plant prior to us writing the certificate. Please, please, please do not cross out the plant we certify for and write your personal plant in there. As the authorizing vets we are deemed responsible for your animal and held accountable for any changes on the certificate that you make.

Insurance: If you require a certificate for a valuable stud bull, please check your insurance policy first. Some have some strict criteria in regards to when these animals can be slaughtered, especially in regards to timing. Often it’s not an issue, but worth checking before the animal leaves the property.

In a perfect world, take a short video or a few photos of your animal in question and the issue, email your local vet well in advance and ask if it would qualify for a certificate.

The bonus of this is that it allows the vet to consult the plant vet if needed. If it meets the criteria, get it booked in and then arrange for the vet to certify it once you have a timeframe to work with.