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Benchmarking study of industry practices during commercial long haul transport of cattle in Alberta, Canada

González, L.A., Schwartzkopf-Genswein, K.S., Bryan, M., Silasi, R., Brown, F. (2012). Benchmarking study of industry practices during commercial long haul transport of cattle in Alberta, Canada, 90(10), 3606-3617.


The objective of the present study was to document current commercial practices during long haul transport (≥400 km) of cattle in Alberta through surveys delivered to truck drivers (6,152 journeys that transport-ed 290,362 animals). The live beef export industry to the United States (89% of all journeys) had a large influence on long haul transport. This was particularly true for fat cattle going to slaughter (82%) and backgrounded feed-ers going to feed yards (15%). Most drivers had either limited (31% with < 2 yr) or extensive (35% > 10 yr) experience hauling cattle. The type of tractors and trail-ers used most frequently were those with more number of axles (quad-axle trailers pulled with push tractors) because they can accommodate extra weight. Mean (± SD) distance travelled was 1,081 ± 343 km (maximum of 2,560 km) whereas time animals spent on truck averaged 15.9 ± 6.3 h with a maximum of 45 h. However, only 5% of all journeys were greater than 30 h. The most frequent cause of delay was at the Canada-United States border crossing due to paperwork and veterinary inspections. Border delays occurred on 77% of all journeys which had a mean of 1.3 ± 1.9 h and up to 15-h long. Driver rest stops and waiting to unload cattle at destination were the second most frequent and longest cause of delay. Ambient temperature across all journeys ranged from -42 to 45°C with a mean value of 18 ± 11.8°C while temperature variation within a journey was from 0 to 46°C with mean value of 15 ± 6.6°C. The proportion of dead, non-ambulatory, and lame cattle for all journeys was 0.011, 0.022, and 0.011%, respectively. The cattle transport industry showed compliance with federal regulations and to a lesser extent with recommendations. Findings showed extreme values and very large variability in transport conditions however further research is needed to assess their impact on animal welfare outcomes. Delays within the journey as a result of border crossing, weather conditions, time on truck, shrink and space allowance may play an important role in improving cattle welfare during long haul transport. © 2012 American Society of Animal Science.

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