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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Improving Immunity, Health, and Well-Being in Cattle and Swine

Location: Livestock Issues Research

Title: How stressful is transportation?

Authors
item Sanchez, Nicole
item Randel, Ronald -
item Welsh JR., Thomas -
item Carroll, Jeffery
item Vann, Rhonda -

Submitted to: Brahman Journal
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 20, 2013
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Citation: Sanchez, N.C., Randel, R.D., Welsh Jr., T.H., Carroll, J.A., Vann, R.C. 2013. How stressful is transportation?. Brahman Journal. 42(1):46-47.

Interpretive Summary: It is common for cattle to be transported multiple times during their production life cycle. Transportation events may include calves shipped to backgrounding facilities and feed yards, as well as pregnant cows that may be transported to sale barns or relocated due to drought to access a pasture or water. Research on the effects of transportation on beef cattle has been conducted for several decades. Prior studies mainly focused on the effect of transportation, with or without space restrictions, on body weight and recovery following long-distance transportation (defined as greater than 8 hours in duration). Recent research by the collaborative group at the USDA-ARS Livestock Issues Research Unit, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, and Mississippi State-Brown Loam has focused on the effects of transportation on the stress and immune responses in Brahman and Brahman-cross cattle. Data from these studies demonstrates that loading and unloading cattle appears to be more stressful than transportation itself based on physiological markers of stress responsiveness. Therefore transportation should be considered as a transportation event that includes the loading and unloading process, and not just the movement of the cattle via the truck-trailer rig. Additionally, the length of transportation influences post-transportation feeding behavior but does not influence post-transportation performance. However, transporting cattle close to the time of harvest may have negative consequences on carcass composition. Lastly, caution should be taken when transporting pregnant cows multiple times during gestation as this may have negative consequences on the unborn calf by producing calves that handle stress and infections differently, and may produce calves that are more temperamental. In summary, while the effects of stress induced by transportation can vary, transportation should be considered stressful only when described as a transportation event that includes the loading and unloading of cattle along with transportation, as transportation in and of itself does not appear to be stressful to cattle. This information will be of interest to scientists working in the area of stress physiology, as well as cattle producers who transport their cattle often. The information provided can help alter management practices in order to alleviate any negative effects of a transportation event on cattle health and well-being.

Technical Abstract: It is common for cattle to be transported multiple times during their production life cycle. Transportation events may include calves shipped to backgrounding facilities and feed yards, as well as pregnant cows that may be transported to sale barns or relocated due to drought to access a pasture or water. Research on the effects of transportation on beef cattle has been conducted for several decades. Prior studies mainly focused on the effect of transportation, with or without space restrictions, on body weight and recovery following long-distance transportation (defined as greater than 8 hours in duration). Recent research by the collaborative group at the USDA-ARS Livestock Issues Research Unit, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, and Mississippi State-Brown Loam has focused on the effects of transportation on the stress and immune responses in Brahman and Brahman-cross cattle. Data from these studies demonstrates that loading and unloading cattle appears to be more stressful than transportation itself based on physiological markers of stress responsiveness. Therefore transportation should be considered as a transportation event that includes the loading and unloading process, and not just the movement of the cattle via the truck-trailer rig. Additionally, the length of transportation influences post-transportation feeding behavior but does not influence post-transportation performance. However, transporting cattle close to the time of harvest may have negative consequences on carcass composition. Lastly, caution should be taken when transporting pregnant cows multiple times during gestation as this may have negative consequences on the unborn calf by producing calves that handle stress and infections differently, and may produce calves that are more temperamental. In summary, while the effects of stress induced by transportation can vary, transportation should be considered stressful only when described as a transportation event that includes the loading and unloading of cattle along with transportation, as transportation in and of itself does not appear to be stressful to cattle.

Last Modified: 7/31/2014
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