Livestock production science vol:82 issue:2-3 pages:171-179
The objective of this study was to examine the effect of the position of calves on the truck (back or front compartment) and other aspects of short distance transport on the welfare of cattle and meat quality parameters. A total of 158 Dutch Fresian calves, aged 28 weeks, were followed during 17 transports from 12 different farms to the slaughterhouse. Heart rate was monitored throughout the transport time and the night before. Blood samples were taken the day before transport in the home pen and at debleeding in the slaughterhouse. The samples were analysed for cortisol, lactate, glucose, creatine kinase and non-esterified fatty acids. Carcass pH and temperature and meat colour were measured in the musculus longissimus thoracis. The heart rate of the animals increased 80% during loading and 72% during unloading and remained high during transport (38%) (P<0.001). The heart rate increased 3% more for the animals travelling in the back compartment and remained higher during transport (P<0.05). The plasma concentration of cortisol, lactate and creatine kinase increased (P<0.001) after transport. The plasma cortisol increased more for the animals travelling in the front compartment (P<0.05). The pH, was lower for the animals travelling in the front compartment (P<0.001) and the pH difference (pH(u) minus pH(1)) was larger for animals travelling in the back compartment (P<0.001). The meat colour of the calves travelling in the front compartment was lighter (P<0.01). A longer fasting period resulted in a darker meat colour (P<0.01). A longer lairage time resulted in a higher increase of creatine kinase (P<0.05). (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.