CZAAWE Resource Article

Positive attitudes of farmers and pen-group conservation reduce adverse reactions of bulls during transfer for slaughter
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
2008
Publication/Journal 
animal
ISBN 
1751-7311 1751-732X
Abstract 
Transfer to slaughter may be very stressful for cattle and negatively affect their ultimate carcass pH. A potential link between farmers’ attitudes, farmers’ behaviour, responses of animals to handling and carcass pH in beef bull production was questioned. Whether carcass pH depends on experiences in handling and social mixing was analysed. We conducted a survey on commercial farms where we questioned farmers on their work and beliefs about bulls. Farmers’ behaviour with bulls during a test and bulls’ behaviour during loading in the truck for transport to the slaughterhouse were observed. The ultimate carcass pH was measured. Farmers tended to behave more gently with their bulls when they had positive attitudes towards gentle contacts with bulls (P50.07). The loading of bulls in the truck tended to be more difficult when the farmer was more ready to approach his bulls (P50.07). Carcass pH was higher for bulls that had not been transferred from a breeding to a finishing unit (P50.03). It tended to be higher when the farmer did not display a gentle behaviour (P50.09). The link between farmers’ attitudes and farmers’ behaviour and the lower meat pH resulting from a gentle farmers’ behaviour during finishing are consistent with previous findings in pig, veal or dairy productions. However, the present links were weaker than in the other productions, probably due to the low frequency of close contacts between farmers and beef bulls. When loading bulls into a truck, handlers use the tendency of animals to avoid people, hence overly positive behaviour with the animals during finishing may result in more difficulties at loading. In that case, use of alternative driving aids should be recommended. Our results on carcass pH suggest some habituation to transport among bulls transferred between breeding and finishing, even though the two experiences are several months apart. In view of our results, it seems that contacts with bulls, when they are needed, should be gentle.