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Animals | June 15, 2018

When to Euthanize Livestock & What to Do with their Remains

Nobody wants to see an animal suffer, whether it’s a cow, horse, goat, dog, or cat. Livestock owners grapple with this dilemma all the time, especially when an animal reaches a certain age, gets injured, or comes down with a disease. While it’s never an easy thing to face, euthanizing can often be the most humane option. We chatted with Dr. Jeff Brubaker, DVM at Stayton Veterinarian Hospital in Stayton, Oregon to help understand when it might be time to euthanize your livestock. Additionally, we’ll cover what you can do with a euthanized animal’s remains, including the meat.

Defining Euthanasia

The term euthanasia is a Greek term that means “good death.” When it comes to animal euthanasia, the idea is to end an animal’s suffering without causing them pain or distress. Of course, it’s always best to consult a veterinarian about your animals and circumstances.

“Each situation is unique,” Dr. Brubaker said when asked about euthanizing livestock. “If there is no hope for good quality of life or economically viable treatments, then it is entirely reasonable to choose humane euthanasia.”

Reasons to Euthanize

Experts agree that there are several good reasons to euthanize a ranch or farm animal. These can include

  • Fractures that are not repairable or economically feasible (legs, hip, spine)
  • Emaciation due to disease or injury
  • Trauma that results in severe, untreatable pain
  • Terminal conditions that reduce quality of life (terminal colic in horses)
  • Paralysis that results in immobility
  • Lymphoma or cancer eye
  • Diseases with no effective or cost-conscious treatment
  • Rabies

Meat Dilemma

As it becomes clear that an animal has reached a point of no return, either by age or deterioration, the question about what to do with their body or meat needs to be answered.

If the animal’s meat would present no public health risk (such as drugs that could be in the animal’s muscles), then it could be possible to slaughter the animal and keep the meat for yourself. See our article Livestock Butchering Options.

If the meat would be considered inedible, then burial, composting, or incineration could be options in your area.

Looking for another option for your aging livestock? Try a local zoo or wildlife safari. The following not-for-profit organizations accept freezer meat, recently deceased livestock, as well as some live animals ready for butchering. When you make a donation, it can be a tax write-off. Just be sure to consult your tax advisor to discuss your options.

Wildlife Safari
Located in Winston, Oregon
Call 541-679-6761 to schedule your drop off
Accepts: freezer meat that is less than three years old (beef, chicken, fish, turkey, venison, elk, and rabbit). Will accept live horses that are quickly deteriorating.

Olympic Game Farm
Located in Sequim, Washington
Call 360-683-4295 to schedule your drop off or pick up

Accepts: Live cattle and horses that are quickly deteriorating. Will pick up freshly deceased animals that have died of natural causes.

Coastal Loves Animals as Much as You

It’s never easy to euthanize. Stop by your Northwest owned and operated Coastal, where you’ll find folks who know a thing or two about caring for aging and dying animals. Plus, we can put you in touch with a local veterinarian who can help you make the right decisions for the animals in your life.

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