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Long distance transport trial

The purpose of this project was to investigate whether specific blood and/or urine measures could be applied to assess the eligibility of cattle for MSA grading when the time from despatch (ie farm to slaughter) exceeded the current threshold of 36 hours.

A total of 460 cattle were sampled at one abattoir over 6 days of slaughter. The cattle were selected based on their marketing background (directly consigned n=236; saleyard n=224), distance they were transported and/or the time between farm and slaughter. The sample therefore represented a wide range of different pre-slaughter pathways. Supplemental samples of a further 20 head travelling a more extreme distance by road and 30 head subject to extended distance and time by rail were also collected at two further abattoirs. Blood and urine samples were collected at the time of slaughter. The blood was analysed for beta hydroxybutyrate and lactate concentrations and the urine analysed for specific gravity and osmolality. The relationship between the various measures and the time from farm to slaughter after adjustment for the fixed effects of day of slaughter, age class and sex was determined for the 460 head.

The general conclusion was that measures of plasma BHB, an indicator of fasting, and urine specific gravity or osmolality, indicators of water deprivation, lacked the sensitivity required for this application when the time from farm to slaughter extends up to 50 h. It was recommended that rather than try and pursue measures that reflect the duration of exposure to pre-slaughter stress, further investigation be undertaken to quantify the effects on beef eating quality when the current time from despatch threshold is extended from 36 to 48 h.Extending beyond an upper limit of 48 h is not recommended.

Finally, significant variation in plasma lactate concentration at slaughter was observed. This variability in the acute pre-slaughter stress response may in fact be a cause for significant variation in beef eating quality. If the results are representative in other abattoirs, further investigation of strategies to optimise pre-slaughter handling and management of cattle is warranted. It is also recommended that further consideration be given to the assessment of the quality and variation in pre-slaughter handling and management in abattoirs slaughtering MSA cattle. ​


Title Size Date published
677.2KB 01/10/2011


Contract No. Title Start date End date Funding type
Non Contract Expenses of Darden Trial
01/12/2010 30/06/2011
Long distance transport trial
01/03/2011 30/06/2011

This page was last updated on 05/07/2018

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