SCA Beef Production Specialist
Cattle have been travelling longer distances for longer periods of time for the past ten years, as smaller packing plants have closed. Larger and more efficient plants in Alberta and Southern Ontario have ensured that our beef industry has stayed competitive, though animal sciences researcher Dr. Temple Grandin’s central thought “We owe the animal respect” resonates with consumers and producers.
The good news: researchers throughout the world have worked on better transportation vehicles and transportation policies that could reduce poor transport issues. For example, researchers highlighted transportation issues and solutions at the International Symposium on Beef Cattle Welfare in Kansas in June.
Tiffany Lee, as noted in this Western Producer news story, has found that the dorsal, or back, was the prominent area of the animal’s body that showed bruising from transport. While any consistent bruising on animals is a concern for the industry, this particular section also provides some of the most valuable cuts. Lee has noted that the clearance levels for cattle change very little for fed cattle and cull cows, though they can vary greatly between those types of cattle. She has proposed a ramp that could be stored inside the side of the truck, rather than decreasing the vertical clearance for cattle by sliding the ramp below the deck of the trailer.
Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein, of the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre, has evaluated cattle on transport as well as cattle trailers. Among her findings, she noted that an experienced driver delivered cattle with less shrinkage (weight loss that occurs during transport, which can lead to lower market value). Cattle on transports with more experienced drivers also have fewer cattle welfare issues.
Schwartzkopf-Genswein also noted some findings that might seems counterintuitive at first glance. She says the most obvious ways that we might consider reducing heat on a cattle trailers – more ventilation through a greater number or greater size of holes – actually led to higher temperatures and higher humidity. In the cooler months, boarding the sides of trailers to assist in cattle comfort showed that it might actually increase, rather than decrease, ventilation.
Canada’s cattle industry will continue to work with the government to ensure that producers can provide helpful feedback in transportation regulations. Because the work completed by researchers has also shown that what we think is the best method might not actually be true, the best way to show our animals respect in the long run might be to let researchers develop proven methods.