Transport effects and shrink

Transport effects and shrinkCattle can get transported three to seven times in their lives, and there is increasing public concern about the transport conditions of livestock.

Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein, PhD, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, told attendees at last week's American Meat Institute conference in Kansas City, Mo., that there has been relatively few studies looking at the effects of transport on cattle in North America. She noted that there are several European transport studies, but the systems are not comparable to North American livestock transportation systems.

Schwartzkopf-Genswein and others surveyed the time-on-truck for 6,000 long-haul cattle trucks. The range was 4 to 56.7 hours, with an average time-on-truck of 16 hours. Fat cattle were on the truck an average of 16 hours, while feeders were longer at 22.4 hours because they were off-loaded at the border for inspection.

Out of 6,000 loads, the average shrink was 5.3%, with fat cattle having 4.9% shrink and feeder cattle having 7.7%. For every hour there was .15 kg of shrink. Cattle hauled the longest – 56.7 hours – had an 8.5% shrink. Schwartzkopf-Genswein explained that at 30 hours in transport, animals can't lose any more water weight and shrink will then come from tissues. Also, feeders, calves and cull cows were more affected by shrink than were fat cattle.

Another study of ventilation perforation patterns of truck (Duffy pattern vs. punch-hole pattern) showed that the nose and belly were the hottest compartments in the Duffy, and the nose was the hottest compartment in the punch-hole patterned trucks.

The study showed that from a temperature-humidity-index (THI) from 60 to a THI of 80, the economic loss from shrink was $38.13 and $66.42, respectively.

Schwartzkopf-Genswein summarized the research and research needs:

  • Fat cattle had the fewest issues in transport
  • The industry needs to rethink transport times
  • Trailer type, design and ventilation need to be looked at further
  • The industry needs scientific assessments on ventilation, density, etc.