Handling, Bruising and Dehydration of Cattle at the Time of Slaughter
The handling of cattle during unloading (n = 39) and movement to slaughter (n = 163) was observed at a commercial slaughterhouse. Most potentially traumatic events and handling events occurred while the cattle were in the race. During the initial 3 hours in the lairage pen, cattle from markets (n = 28) spent significantly more time drinking than those sent to slaughter direct from farms (n = 11; P < 0.05). Most cattle had bruises (99%; n = 181), but there was no difference between the occurrence of bruising in cattle direct from farms and those from markets. Bruise score was not affected by the distance transported from farms 18–201km (11–125 miles). However, cattle from markets >64km (>40 miles) from the slaughterhouse had greater bruise scores than thosefrom nearer markets 0.8–64km (0.5–40 miles) (P < 0.01). No correlations were found between potentially traumatic events at the slaughterhouse and the occurrence of bruising. Plasma total protein concentration and plasma creatine kinase activity in blood collected at exsanguination (n = 170) was significantly greater in cattle from markets than in those from farms (P < 0.05), but there was no difference in plasma osmolality and packed cell volume (PCV). Cattle from distant markets > 129km (> 80 miles) had higher PCV and plasma total protein concentration than those from markets within 129km (80 miles) (1) < 0.05). The overall results suggest that cattle from markets, particularly those transported for a distance greater than 64km (40 miles), would benefit from greater access to water at the market and from improved methods of handling and transport prior to arrival at the slaughterhouse.
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