Trailer microclimate and calf welfare during fall-run transportation of beef calves in Alberta.

Goldhawk, C.A., Janzen, E., González, L.A., Crowe, T.G., Kastelic, J.P., Pajor, E., and Schwartzkopf-Genswein, K.S.G. (2014). "Trailer microclimate and calf welfare during fall-run transportation of beef calves in Alberta.", Journal of Animal Science, 92(11), pp. 5142-5154. doi : 10.2527/jas.2014-7960  Access to full text


Twenty-four commercial loads of beef calves (BW 300 ± 52 kg, mean ± SD) were evaluated for associations among transportation factors, in-transit microclimate, and calf welfare. Transport factors evaluated included vehicle speed, space allowance, compartment within trailer, and transit duration. Calves were transported for 7 h 44 min ± 4 h 15 min, with space allowances ranging from 0.56 to 1.17 m2/animal. Compartment within trailer, space allowance, and vehicle speed did not affect the difference between compartment ceiling-level and ambient temperatures during a 30-min period of steady-state microclimate. During the steady-state period, a 1°C increase in ambient temperature above the mean of 5.6°C was associated with a 0.62°C decrease in the difference between ceiling-level and ambient temperature (P < 0.01). Ceiling-level temperature and humidity during the first 400 min of transport could be predicted by ambient conditions and vehicle speed (pseudo-r2 of 0.91 and 0.82 for temperature and humidity ratio; P < 0.01). Events when animal-level temperature–humidity index (THI) was classified as above the “danger” level lasted for 10.2 ± 4.1 consecutive minutes. Ambient and ceiling-level THI values were not classified as above “danger” for 90.0 and 84.9% of animal-level events. Ambient and ceiling-level THI were 5.0 ± 2.1 and 4.7 ± 2.0°Flower than animal-level THI during periods of disagreement, respectively. The majority of calves arrived in good condition and biochemical indicators of calf welfare were within reference ranges for healthy cattle. Within the study population, high pre-transport cortisol and hematocrit were associated with elevated post-transport values (P < 0.01). A 1% increase in shrink during the weaning to loading interval (24 or 48 h) decreased transportation shrink by 0.26 ± 0.04% when average animal-level temperature was greater than 5°C and decreased transportation shrink by 0.11 ± 0.04% when average animal-level temperature was less than 5°C (P < 0.01). We inferred that the study results support future investigation of the extension of in-transit microclimate as a risk factor for post-transport treatment for disease. The study also provided correction factors for estimating in-transit microclimate that could assist in evaluation of transportation management and decisions affecting profitability and calf welfare.

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