Grooming is an important behaviour for cattle. It helps them to keep a healthy coat and skin by removing dirt and parasites. Cattle groom themselves and their herd mates by licking. In nature, they also use tree bark and other rough surfaces to scratch areas of their body that are difficult to reach.
However, on most Canadian dairy farms cattle are housed indoors (PDF) they don’t have access to scratching surfaces for grooming. For this reason, some dairy farmers provide their cattle with brushes, much like those you see at an automated car wash, that make it easier for cattle to scratch those hard to reach places.
According to recent research (PDF) from the University of British Columbia’s Animal Welfare Program, dairy cattle really want to be brushed! In fact, when put to the test, the cows in the study worked just as hard to access a brush as they did to access fresh food. This goes to show that, for dairy cows, being able to groom is about as important as eating!
Another study showed that cattle that have access to a brush are cleaner and groom themselves for about five times longer than when brushes are not available.
At the BC SPCA, we are always working to build a better future for Canada’s farm animals. That’s why our SPCA Certified standards require that dairy cattle always have access to brushes for grooming, and recommend them for beef cattle too.
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