Careful trucking pays in cattle trade
The need to transport cattle has led to research into the best way to move them without causing undue stress and injury, and participants at Beef Day during Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week in Elmwood heard some of the results.
The latest statistics indicate that Bruce County has about 111,000 beef cattle, which includes cows, heifers, steers under one year old and calves. Steers represent 50,000 of the total. Grey is slightly lower at 93,000 beef cattle with 38,000 being calves.
Although some of the cattle are sold through local auction houses, such as at Keady, and at provincially inspected abattoirs, most are transported to either the federally inspected Cargill abattoir in Guelph, where 1,500 cattle are slaughtered every day, or further afield to the U.S. Depending on the value of the Canadian dollar to its American counterpart, up to 40 percent of beef cattle can be shipped there.
Transportation over long distances and keeping the cattle healthy is a key factor especially as there have been some incidents of people photographing cattle in trucks that looked to be under stress and putting it up on social media.
“We wanted to put the science into transporting livestock,” said Dr. Karen SchwartzkopfGenswein, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, who works in Lethbridge, Alta. Most of the funding for the research came from the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.
Many of the results from the study are things most beef farmers and transport truckers would know already. But SchwartzkopfGenswein put numbers to those factors.
In Europe regulations state that livestock cannot be transported in trucks for longer than eight hours. In the U.S. it’s 28 hours, and in Canada it’s 52 hours. It’s Canada’s size that leads to the the longer times allowed in a transport truck here, but for Ontario most destinations can be reached in less than the 52-hour maximum.
But Schwartzkopf-Genswein pointed out cattle that are in a truck after 30 hours have used up the food in their stomachs, are dehydrated and begin to have more stress and weight loss. She recommended a 24 hour maximum.
“Loading cattle on to trucks [is] also one of the most stressful times,” said Genswein. She advised that farmers not be too rough on the animals, minimize any cattle prod use, and don’t yell. “Stressed cattle are more prone to injury,” she said.
Heart monitors installed on transported cattle indicated that it takes a minimum of 30 minutes for the cattle’s heart rate to go down to normal.
The study found that temperatures above 15 C and below -15C , led to the most stress and injury to livestock being transported.
Driver experience also counted, as the research found drivers with more than 10 years experience had fewer injured cattle.
One of the worst situations Schwartzkopf-Genswein found was when trucks had to wait for long periods at U.S. border crossings, when heat can rise substantially inside the trucks
Unloading was also important, as cattle waiting for more than 30 minutes to unload were more prone to injury.
A farmer loads beef cattle into a truck in this Postmedia file photo.