How Do Farmers Kill Cows? How Are Cattle Slaughtered?

A cow is normally slaughtered for food and other products when it reaches the age of 36 months. The slaughtering process is significant because how it is done can affect carcass and lean meat quality. So, how do farmers kill cows and what happens to a cow in pre-slaughter period? Let’s explore the answers in the article below.

How do farmers kill cows?

Normally, the slaughter process has two stages in non-ritual countries, which are stunning and killing. This is to guarantee that the animal dies rapidly with minimal suffering pain during slaughter.

A cow is killed not just because of food, but also for other reasons, such as being diseased, unsuitable for further breeding and fattening.


The first stage of the process is called stunning. The stunning process is meant to cause an animal to lose consciousness and ensure a humane end with no pain, but not necessarily dead. In fact, there are loads of methods available to stun a cow during slaughter.


An electrical current is passed either across the brain or the heart of the cow, causing the loss of unconsciousness before being killed.

Gas stunning

The animal is exposed to high concentrations of carbon dioxide, which acts as an anesthetic. Nitrogen often combines with CO2 to induce unconsciousness.

Captive bolt

A captive bolt pistol is applied to the brain of the cow to quickly render the animal unconscious immediately before being killed. The three kinds of captive bolt pistols include penetrating, non-penetrating and free bolt.

In order to diminish the risk of transmission of disease when parts of the brain enter the bloodstream, the penetrating captive bolts method has no longer be in used in commercial situations.


A conventional firearm is used to fire a bullet into the brain of the cow causing the animal instantaneous death.


In the second stage, farmers use a very sharp knife to cut the cow’s throat, allowing the major blood vessels in its neck to drain and therefore death.


The cow is bled either by cutting its throat or by insertion of a check stick into the thoracic cavity or close to the heart. In both these methods, the carotid artery and jugular vein are cut and allowed to bleed.

Drug killing

Drug administration is applied to ensure the cow is dead. Nonetheless, this method is costly, time-consuming, and causes the cow’s body toxic and inedible, hence it is largely used for animal euthanasia, not as a commercialized slaughter method.

Check more: Why Do Cows Need Salt?

What happens to a cow in pre-slaughter period?

Although the stunning method is applied to render the cow unconsciousness, it suffers a much high level of pain and stress while waiting for being killed. As many farms are located in remote areas, the transportation period is often time-consuming and exhausting.

Below are the activities and processes a cow undergoes during pre-slaughter period.

Deprivation of water

The cow may not be provided with adequate water at market or during the transportation process to the slaughterhouse and may result in dehydration. The symptoms of severe dehydration are nausea, a hot-dry body, dry tongue, loss of co-ordination, and concentrated urine of a small volume.

Psychological stress

The motion sickness, the breakdown of social groupings, the heat conditions or the unfamiliarity of being onboard a transport truck causes distress in cows. The stresses associated with transport may cause the animal’s susceptibility to infection.

Plus, the cow that is exposed to these stressors for a long time can have undesirable effects on meat quality.

External injury

The cow should be transported in a way that minimizes pain or physical damage. Rough handling such as beating the cow with leather belts or electric goads when they reject to move forward or dragging them along the ground can cause torn skin, bruising and injury, or even breaking bones.

Sickness and disease

Some people believe that slaughterhouses are experts at salvaging what they can from carcasses, thus most diseased animals are sent in without any hesitation. However, in other countries, farmers do not highly appreciate that diseased stock because they are low grade and likely low return.

Sickness and disease are two of the most serious types of cattle suffering. Furthermore, transporting those seriously ill animals to slaughterhouse imposes extra stress.

See more: How Is Milk Made In Cows?


I hope this article provided some additional insight into “how are cattle slaughtered” in general and how farmers kill cows in particular. What’s more, being informed about one of the most common ways that animals suffer during the pre-slaughter period can help you minimize adverse animal health and welfare outcomes.