Research shines spotlight on cattle stress levels

Temperament link to future feedlot performance

Beef Week News 2018
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Research in WA has shown feedlot cattle can, with good management, have lower stress levels at slaughter than on feedlot entry, but temperament does play a part.

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FEEDLOT cattle can be habituated to their new surroundings and with good management can actually have lower stress levels at slaughter than feedlot entry.

That was the findings of a recently released beef study conducted in WA.

But, it also found that those cattle with poor temperament at induction had lower than average weight gains, lower hot carcase weights and increased shear force.

The project supported by Meat&Livestock Australia's Donor Company, in collaboration with Australian Meat Processor Corporation, Harvey Beef and Murdoch University assessed physiological stress indicators at different times, as well as the impact of handling and temperament on stress and carcase quality.

Data from 240 cattle from feedlot induction, at 70 days on feed and at slaughter was collected.

MDC business development manager Josh Whelan says factors that trigger higher stress levels can be identified throughout the supply chain and mitigation strategies employed to reduce the impact of this.

"Identifying specific times at which cattle are stressed will allow for targeted management of these animals to proactively reduce that stress," Mr Whelan said.

"Research like this demonstrates how the industry is constantly working to monitor and improve animal welfare, which is one of the core pillars of the Meat Industry Strategic Plan (MISP) 2020.

"The results of this report are important not only from an animal welfare perspective, but also because of the impacts that stress and temperament are known to have on carcase traits and eating quality."

Mr Whelan said the research also explored relative impacts of cattle temperament, and found there were links between future performance and temperament as measured by flight speed at the time of feedlot induction.

Animals with a poorer temperament at induction were also more prone to showing acute stress signals at slaughter.

"By quantifying the impact of temperament at the time of induction on growth and carcase quality, the research suggests that measurement of flight speed on, or just prior to, induction may be the most useful time to assess temperament for future carcase and growth performance," Mr Whelan said.

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