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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Transportation of Cattle in the Dairy Industry: Current Research and Future Directions

Author
item Eicher, Susan

Submitted to: Journal of Dairy Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 28, 2000
Publication Date: November 28, 2000
Citation: EICHER, S.D. TRANSPORTATION OF CATTLE IN THE DAIRY INDUSTRY: CURRENT RESEARCH AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS. JOURNAL OF DAIRY SCIENCE. 2001. V. 84(SUPPL.E): P. E19-E23.

Interpretive Summary: Traditionally, a heifer lived on one farm from birth to death, but recently transportation has become a routine management practice. The needs of cattle are different depending on age and stage of reproduction and lactation. Ramps are not an obstacle for adult cattle; however, for neonatal calves ramp inclines and deck height can create difficulties. Mixing of dairy cattle is relatively unexplored. Stationary confinement of cows is less stressful than the motion of transport. During transport, adult cattle stand more, but lie more during the recovery period. Room to orient themselves in a particular direction is important. Footing is affected by driver, driving conditions, and stocking density, but flooring does not contribute to falls. Environmental studies indicate that upper critical temperature for adult cattle is 30 degrees C, but neonatal calves are most affected by low temperatures. Therefore, ventilation requirements are based on specific circumstances. Studies showed that calves habituate to transport, unlike cows. Young calves exhibit less physiological stress with transport, but succumb to disease later which is correlated with age at transport. Characteristics of stressed cattle during and following transport include increased heart rate and stress hormone concentrations, impaired reproductive hormone activity, and immunological changes. The duration of the journey has a greater impact than the distance and after long transport, most animals drink and then lie down. Beneficial therapies during and following transport include access to water and electrolyte replacement. This review will be useful for scientist planning transport research.

Technical Abstract: Traditionally, a heifer lived on one farm from birth to death. Recently, transportation has become a routine management practice. The needs of cattle are different depending on age and stage of reproduction and lactation. Ramps are not an obstacle for adult cattle; however, for neonatal calves ramp inclines and deck height can create well-being issues for loading and unloading calves. Mixing of dairy cattle is relatively unexplored. Stationary confinement of cows is less stressful than the motion of transport. During transport, adult cattle stand more, but lie more during the recovery period. Room to orient themselves in a particular direction is important. Footing is affected by driver, driving conditions, and stocking density, but flooring does not contribute to falls. Environmental studies indicate that upper critical temperature for adult cattle is 30 degrees C, but neonatal calves are most affected by low temperatures. Therefore ventilation requirements are based on specific circumstances. Young calves exhibit less physiological stress with transport, but succumb to post-secondary mortality which is correlated with age at transport. Characteristics of stressed cattle during and following transport include increased heart rate and cortisol concentrations, enzymatic changes, impaired LH surge, and immunological changes. The duration of the journey has a greater impact that the distance and after long transport, most animals drink and then lie down. Therapies during and following transport show that water or electrolytes are important. Studies showed that calves habituate to transport, unlike cows. These data point to the need for research of better methods of transport to reduce stress.

Last Modified: 4/20/2014
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