Transporting cattle in 2020: Research and regulation update

Citation

https://wcds.ualberta.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/57/2020/03/p107-118-Schwartzkopf-Genswein-WCDS2020-TransportingCattleIn2020.pdf

Plain language summary

The objective of this paper is to provide a summary of past and current research relevant to the impacts of transport on Canadian dairy cattle. The following sections will discuss factors contributing to increased susceptibility for poor welfare outcomes during and after transport in unweaned calves and cull cows. In addition, the effects of transport distance, feed, rest and water intervals, and extreme environmental conditions on the same types of animals will be reviewed. Changes to the transport regulations will be outlined with a focus on how they will impact calf and cull cow transport. Finally, recommendations will be given regarding best management practice for these more vulnerable types of cattle. Continued concern and awareness of welfare conscious transportation practices will improve the health and well-being of dairy cattle while increasing consumer confidence and sustainability of diary- derived meat products.

Abstract

Transportation of animals by road continues to be a necessary part of the dairy industry related mainly to the marketing of surplus bull calves and cull cows. However, transportation of young and cull animals has been identified as an important welfare issue needing special consideration (Schwartzkopf-Genswein and Grandin, 2019). This is because dairy calves and cull dairy cows are among the most vulnerable types of animals regarding fitness for transport when overall condition, health and ability to cope with stress is taken into account.

Heightened public awareness and concern for animal welfare related to transport and in general, has increased the need for assessing and developing strategies to minimize potential for poor welfare outcomes. The OIE (World Health Organization, 2008) defines welfare as “how an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives” and that good welfare “(as indicated by scientific evidence) means the animal is healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behaviour, and is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress”.
Although many studies have documented behavioural and physiological changes in cattle during and after transportation (Schwartzkopf-Genswein and Grandin, 2019), few have assessed very young or old cattle. Behavioural and physiological changes are used as indicators of welfare that can be affected by both animal and non-animal factors. Animal related factors include age, health, body condition, experience, and temperament while non-animal factors include animal management prior to transport, handling, loading density, mixing with unfamiliar animals, trailer environment (temperature and humidity, noise and vibration), location within the trailer, transport duration and feed, rest and water intervals (Schwartzkopf-Genswein and Grandin, 2019). Before strategies to improve welfare outcomes during transport can be developed, the impact of each factor indicated above, alone or in combination, need to be better understood for all types of cattle, but more urgently for young calves and cull cows.
The revised Canadian transport regulations (CFIA, 2019) come into effect February 20, 2020, nearly 4 decades after the last regulations were made. The new regulations are science informed taking into account research studies that provide consistent evidence for where improvements could be made. The main changes focus on reducing transport duration and feed, rest and water intervals. These regulations will play a major role in how cattle transport is conducted in Canada and in animal welfare outcomes.
The objective of this paper is to provide a summary of past and current research relevant to the impacts of transport on Canadian dairy cattle. The following sections will discuss factors contributing to increased susceptibility for poor welfare outcomes during and after transport in unweaned calves and cull cows. In addition, the effects of transport distance, feed, rest and water intervals, and extreme environmental conditions on the same types of animals will be reviewed. Changes to the transport regulations will be outlined with a focus on how they will impact calf and cull cow transport. Finally, recommendations will be given regarding best management practice for these more vulnerable types of cattle. Continued concern and awareness of welfare conscious transportation practices will improve the health and well-being of dairy cattle while increasing consumer confidence and sustainability of diary- derived meat products.

Publication date

2020-04-02