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Ask a Vet: Tail maintenance options

Armon Hetzel for Progressive Dairy Published on 19 July 2019
Tail trimming

As of Jan. 1, 2017, the National Milk Producers Federation set a ban on tail docking.

What’s the impact?

  • Changes to on-farm tail-docking protocols

  • Producers have to use an alternative to tail docking


Tail trimming is a safe, simple and effective alternative to tail docking. In this example, the (Tailwell 2 Power Tail Trimmer) cordless drill attachment with circular blades trims a cow’s tail quickly and easily. It trims tails in less than 15 seconds, and tails stay trimmed for six months. With only three moving parts, it is designed for minimal maintenance. Only a few drops of oil and a check of the tension screws are needed every 30 to 50 tails.



Directions: Attach to a battery-operated cordless drill. This is best fitted to a 14-volt (1,200 to 1,750 rpm) model.

Do not force the tail into the cutter, let the cutter do the work

If tails are extremely dirty or covered in sand, it is recommended to pre-cut tails with sheep shears to remove the debris. Finish with the tail trimmer to remove all the hair on the end and side of the tail. Trimmed tails greatly reduce the amount of dirt and manure around the rear quarters and udder of the cow, thus reducing bacteria count, leading to less risk of mastitis.

Tail-trimming tips

Don’t force: Do not force the cutter. Let it do the work, especially if tails are very dirty. Let the cutter chew slowly through matted hair. In worst cases, dirt may have to be pulled apart to enable the cutter to work. If cutting is not even all around, the cutter tension screws may need adjusting.

Storage: It is imperative to carefully clean and thoroughly re-lubricate the gears and blade set prior to storage in a clean and dry environment.


The blades are manufactured from high-quality tool steel but will rust and potentially seize if not well lubricated before storing. To do this correctly, the blade set must be removed (following instructions supplied) and packed with grease between inner and outer blades and also around the gear set.

Blades and gears should also be checked for wear at this time. Reassemble and check all body screws for tightness.  end mark

PHOTO 1: A cordless drill attachment with circular blades trims cows’ tails quickly and easily to help keep cows clean.

PHOTO 2: Do not force the tail into the cutter. Instead, let the cutter do the work, especially on very dirty tails. Photos courtesy of Animart.

Armon Hetzel
  • Armon Hetzel

  • Professional Services Veterinarian
  • Animart
  • Email Tim Clark