Keeping Cows Calm in Transport

19 Jun 2015 3:18 PM | Deleted user

THE ongoing division about best pre-transport practice is one regularly talked about along the rails at the yards between both carriers and producers.

The adoption of post-sale weighing at the new Northern Victoria Livestock Exchange at Barna- wartha North earlier this year sparked debate with many vendors concerned for the amount of time from leaving the farm to the scales.

Shrinkage was the main issue, with many fearful their hard work to finish stock was being undone.

But also in discussion was how producers were preparing stock for transport before sale day.

While it was impossible to put a blanket time frame on how long livestock should be off food and water before being loaded, given subjectives like season and travel time had to be considered, what could be highlighted was the link stress had with shrinkage, said veterinarian Rick White, Mount Barker, South Australia.

He said producers should put the wheels in motion six weeks out from the expected sale day.

"The nutritional management of the animal in that last month and a half leading up to transport has a role in the dressing percentage of the animal," Mr White said.

Particularly when being run on green feed, he said sudden changes in feed and water quality should be avoided in the two weeks before transport.

"This can be interrelated with poor dressing, a high rate of dark cutting and a lot of stress for the animal," Mr White said.

"A curfew period where they're fed more roughage is the best management."

The trickle effect of stress was one issue many producers underestimated, according to Mr White.

It was known to cause rapid glycogen burn, which quickly reduced the potential meat yield.

"I don't think it's fully appreciated how much damage stress can do - most people are of the opinion that it's somewhat unavoidable," he said.

"That's the main problem, it's just assumed the cattle will be stressed before and during transport."

Mr White said effluent was another ongoing issue.

"It's inevitable but the volume produced is defined by a number of factors: diet, curfew times and stress," he said.

On top of correct handling, he said using a supplement could reduce all of those things.

"If we start to integrate products on top of sound nutritional products we'll be a step in the right direction when it comes to keeping weight on and keeping the cattle in top condition before sale or processing," Mr White said.

"It's not about coming in with a product at the end, the preparation is vital."

One product on the market - Generade - had undergone testing and found significant results, he said.

Trials conducted by veterinarian Stuart Halliday, Livestock Central, Walcha, analysed blood samples for cortisol concentration - the hormone widely recognised as the stress indicator in cattle.

The results found the treated animals were 65 per cent less affected by stress and recovered 81pc better from stress.

Bylong grazier Jim Gunn had experimented in the past with the best pre-travel management for cattle.

He found those kept off water but on feed travelled the best.

"Some farmers have a funny idea that if they get them out of the paddock minutes before they get on the truck they'll keep weight," he said.

"We did all sorts of experiments when we were backgrounding at Goondiwindi, Qld, with loading them full and sending them versus loading them off water but full of hay."

"On average they'd lose five per cent over a journey but if we had them full of fluids that was the biggest loss."

He knew of producers who had almost halved their shrinkage by using a product that calmed the animal.

Mr Gunn said he could visually see the cattle relax across a two day period when he used Travel and Yard pellets.

"I notice the effect particularly at weaning - when we take their mothers away they virtually climb the walls, they don't like you being anywhere near them," he said.

"For the next two days they get 800 grams of pellets per calf that's taken with good quality lucerne hay, and by the time you go to feed them on the third morning you can nearly scratch them."

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