Effect of transport and rest stop duration on the welfare of conditioned cattle transported by road

Citation

Meléndez, D.M., Marti, S., Haley, D.B., Schwinghamer, T.D., Schwartzkopf-Genswein, K.S. (2020). Effect of transport and rest stop duration on the welfare of conditioned cattle transported by road. PLoS ONE, [online] 15(3), http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0228492

Plain language summary

The aim of this study was to assess the effects of rest duration, after 12h and 36h of transport, on physiological and behavioural indicators of welfare in 7-8 mo-old weaned beef calves. The main factors included transport duration: 12h and 36h and rest stop duration of 0h, 4h, 8h, and 12h. After the resting period the animals were then transported for an additional 4 h. Blood and hair samples were taken from 12 animals per treatment prior to and after the first and 4h transport; and then at 7h and 2d and 28 d after transport. Standing and lying behaviour was assessed for 14d after transport, while feeding behaviour of calves in one pen per treatment were assessed for 28d after transportation using an electronic feed bunk system. Body weight, average daily gain and shrink was assessed for all the calves. Overall, physiological indicators of reduced welfare were greater in calves transported for 36h than 12h, while no clear differences were observed between rest stop groups, with the exception of NEFA. Based on these results, conditioned calves benefit from shorter transport durations but there was no clear evidence that calves rested for 4h, 8h, and 12h following transportation experienced reduced transport related stress compared to those that were not rested.

Abstract

The effects of providing rest on physiological and behavioural indicators of welfare of cattle being transported by road has not been well studied in North America. New revisions to Canada's Health of Animals Regulations Part XII: Transportation of Animals indicate unweaned and weaned calves can be transported a maximum of 12 and 36 h, respectively, before an 8 h rest is required. Therefore, the aim of this study was to assess the effects of rest duration, after 12 and 36 h of transport, on physiological and behavioural indicators of welfare in 7-8 mo-old beef calves. Three hundred and twenty conditioned calves (258 ± 23.9 kg BW) were randomly assigned to a 2 × 4 factorial design where the main factors included transport duration: 12 h (12; n = 160) and 36 h (36; n = 160) and rest stop duration: 0 h (R0; n = 80), 4 h (R4; n = 80), 8 h (R8; n = 80) and 12 h (R12; n = 80). After the resting period, animals were transported for an additional 4 h. Blood and hair samples were taken from 12 animals per treatment prior to and after the first and the 4 h transport; and then 7 h, 2 d and 28 d after the 4 h transport. The concentrations of haptoglobin, creatine kinase, nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA), lactate, and serum and hair cortisol were determined. Standing and lying behaviour was assessed for 14 d after transport, while feeding behaviour of calves in one pen per treatment were assessed for 28 d after transportation using an electronic feed bunk monitoring system. Body weight (BW), average daily gain (ADG) and shrink (%) was assessed for all calves. The data was modeled using generalized linear mixed methods (SAS PROC GLIMMIX), where transport and time (nested in rest) were considered fixed effects and animal and pen were considered random effects. Statistically significant (p < 0.05) effects of transport were observed on BW and shrink, where 36 h-transported calves had lower (p < 0.01) BW and greater (p < 0.01) shrink than 12 h-transported calves. A transport × time (nested in rest) interaction (p < 0.01) was observed for lying percentage where, 36-R8 calves had greater (p < 0.01) lying percentage than 12-R8 calves on d 1 after transportation. The area under the curve (AUC) for NEFA was greater (p < 0.01) for 36-R0 calves than 12-R0, 36-R4, and 36-R8 calves, and greater (p < 0.01) in 36-R12 calves than 12-R12 calves. Haptoglobin AUC was greater (p = 0.05) in 36-R12 than 12-R12 calves. Overall, physiological indicators of reduced welfare were greater in calves transported for 36 than 12 h, while no clear differences were observed between rest stop groups with the exception of NEFA. Based on these results, conditioned calves benefit from shorter transport durations but there was no clear evidence that calves rested 4, 8, and 12 h following transportation experienced reduced transport related stress compared to those that were not rested (0h).

Publication date

2020-01-01