Transportation of beef cattle to slaughterhouses and how this relates to animal welfare and carcase bruising in an extensive production system
The objective of this study was to evaluate conditions during transport and their effects on welfare and carcase bruising of beef cattle in Uruguay, a country with an extensive, pasture-based, production system. Twelve abattoirs were visited periodically during two years (2002–2003) and 448 trucks were inspected on arrival. The state of vehicle maintenance was deemed 'unacceptable' for the transport of animals in 16.5 (± 3.2)% of cases and most of the vehicles (99.1 [± 0.1]%) had a 'guillotine-type' door at the rear end. Both characteristics showed a significant association with the presence of carcase bruising. No overall significant difference was found with the year of vehicle manufacture (24.6 [± 0.2]% before 1990), the presence of rollers bars in 51.3 (± 0.1)% of the trucks on one or both sides of the doors, and the working experience of the men who transported the cattle (> 10 years). The average distance travelled with the animals loaded onto trucks was 240 (± 9) km and the mean journey length was 305 (± 7) min (5 h). A statistically significant effect of the distance travelled and the state of the roads on the occurrence of bruising was found. The use of devices to force animals to move, such as: electric prod (75%), sticks (3%), loud shouts (40%) and a combination of all of the above were positively correlated with bruising. After slaughter, carcase bruising was identified, quantified, and classified into three degrees of muscle injury. From 15,168 beef cattle observed, 60.0% (9,106) had at least one injury. Of the injured carcases, 33.1% (3,015) had one bruise, 25.1% (2,289) had two bruises, 16.2% (1,474) had three bruises and 25.6% (2,328) four or more bruises. Transporting animals in a humane fashion will reduce the amount of bruising on carcases, thereby increasing both the welfare of beef cattle and the profitability of the beef industry in Uruguay.
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