Bruising and Cattle

By : Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Cattle Specialist

Cattle bruising is an animal well-being concern as well a loss in economic value. When loaded, 60% of cattle are in the middle portion of a trailer, 30% in the rear compartments and 10% in the nose. Cattle rarely change position while a trailer is in motion, and the cattle typically position themselves at right angles to the direction of travel to try to compensate for the trailer movement and focus energies on keeping their balance. Road conditions can have an impact on carcass bruises as well as driver experience. In one study, it was observed that ‘low’ space stocking rates caused lower carcass weights compared to ‘medium’ and ‘high’ space stocking rates. However, the ‘medium’ space stocking rate resulted in the lowest bruising rate; the ‘low’ and ‘high’ space stocking rates had 4 and 2 times greater bruise scores.

Helen Kline (2018, Colorado State) conducted a study in five commercial slaughter facilities, located in multiple regions of the U.S. Individual carcasses were followed through the slaughtering process and were evaluated for bruising, weight of bruised meat and location of bruising. In Kline’s study she found that 28.1% of carcasses observed were visibly bruised. Regions of the carcass that had the highest bruise incidence were the round, rib, and loin beef cuts, respectively. However, some carcasses had deep tissue bruises that were not visible on the surface of the carcass, but trim loss was collected once these bruises were exposed and averaged 2.2 pounds per carcass. Cattle in the top deck compartment of a trailer were less likely to be bruised when compared to cattle in the belly compartment (P = 0.03). Although the study focused on transport other events in the supply chain are critical control points prior to transport were implicated.

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