Animal transport and welfare with special emphasis on transport time and vibration

Abstract: Farm animals are transported several times during their lifetime and often long distances, and most of them are to slaughter. During transport they are exposed to a number of stress inducing factors. The main objective of the thesis work was to study the welfare of pigs, cows and bulls during transport from farm to abattoir. Parameters such as cortisol, glucose, lactate, creatine kinease, behaviour, carcass pH, temperature, relative humidity, THI and vibration were used to evaluate welfare of the animals. Transport-related activities such as loading, transport, stopping, queuing, unloading and waiting at lairage and their durations were also monitored. Moreover locations of collection points and trucks routes were registered. During the experiments, GPS, temperature-relative humidity and vibration sensors and video camera were mounted on animals transport vehicles. The vehicles had natural ventilation and air suspension systems. Blood parameters and their correlation with transport time were evaluated. Cortisol concentration was negatively correlated in pigs, cows and bulls except for bulls at 12 h during summer. Correlation of lactate was strong and of glucose weak in pigs and cows. In bulls there were strong glucose (summer) and weak lactate correlations. Change in creatine kinease concentration in cows, bulls and pigs were positively correlated. However it increased at earlier transport time in cattle than in pigs. Animals behaviour such as lying, travel sickness (pigs), swaying and loss of balance (cattle) were strongly correlated with transport time. Transport of cattle on gravel road at 70 km h-1 induced highest vibration level, 2.27 m s-2. Above 85% of the pigs in the third floor preferred lying in travel direction due to higher lateral acceleration. Pigs were exposed to heat and cattle to cold stress. Queuing at abattoir occurred in around 20 % of the deliveries. Queuing time at the abattoir varied between 7 and 98, with an average of 23.7 minutes. Potential savings for routes was up to 23%, therefore reducing negative impact on animal welfare and consequently on meat quality and environment. Pigs in the third floor were exposed to higher lateral acceleration. Based on behaviours and stress hormones, it could be concluded that on cattle an increase from 4 to 8 h and on pigs from 8 to 12 h transport time had higher effect on welfare. To reduce impact of vibration transporters have to adapt speed of vehicle to road and animals conditions.

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