The Effect of Environmental and Animal Characteristics on Cattle Behaviour at Rest-Stops During Long-Distance Transportation

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University of Guelph

This thesis studied the effects of long-distance transport on the lying, eating, and drinking behaviour of cattle unloaded at two commercial rest stations. First, we characterized loads of cattle (n=89) stopping at rest stations, documenting load, trip, rest station, and animal handling characteristics. Loads with feeder (47.2%), weaned (27.0%), market weight (11.2%), culled beef cows (11.2%), and breeding (3.4%) cattle were examined. We observed market weight cattle travelling west, which had not been documented previously. The mean transport time (26 h) and mean duration at the rest station (13 h) showed compliance above and beyond the federal humane transport regulations. We observed differences in truck compartment sizes compared to previously published standard values, which can impact space allowance calculations. The effects of providing straw bedding, load, trip, and rest station characteristics on lying, eating, and drinking behaviour were examined at the group level. Cattle prioritized eating in the initial hours after unloading, lying down afterwards suggesting feelings of hunger may predominate over any feelings of fatigue. We observed two significant interactions with bedding: bedding resulted in cattle lying down sooner; and the probability of lying increased with longer truck’s time in motion in bedded pens and decreased in non-bedded pens. We examined associations between provision of bedding, load, trip, and rest station characteristics and different characteristics of lying behaviour (i.e., odds of observing lying behaviour, lying posture, latency, duration, number of lying bouts and bout duration) for individual animals. We observed significant interactions between bedding and two independent variables: cattle with bedding laid down sooner, with trips over 15 h in motion; and heavier cattle laid down for less time in bedded pens. Finally, we described and assessed the effects of load, trip, rest station, and animal characteristics on cattle waterer use at one rest station. The waterer was used almost immediately after unloading and its use was observed more often soon after unloading. Drinker use decreased with longer time in motion. Providing bedding changed certain aspects of cattle’s behaviour which may be associated with different affective states that could have an effect on their welfare.

Long-distance transport, Beef cattle, Rest stop, Mixed models