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Animals 2014, 4(2), 184-199;

The Effect of Age, Stocking Density and Flooring during Transport on Welfare of Young Dairy Calves in Australia

Animal Welfare Science Centre, The Melbourne School of Land and Environment, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia
Biometrics Group, Department of Environment and Primary Industries (Victoria), Werribee, VIC 3030, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 23 September 2013 / Revised: 26 March 2014 / Accepted: 28 March 2014 / Published: 11 April 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Long Distance Transport of Animals)
Full-Text   |   PDF [123 KB, uploaded 11 April 2014]


Transport of young (‘bobby’) calves for slaughter is a contentious welfare issue for some sectors of the Australian community. Factors of age, stocking density and flooring need further research to develop appropriate welfare standards for transport of bobby calves. The objective of this study was to identify the space allowance requirements for transport of bobby calves and to understand factors such as age and flooring that minimise risks to calf welfare during transport. Animals aged 3-, 5- and 10-day old were transported for 12 h in a custom-made cattle truck fitted with 9 pens, with movable mesh divisions. Each pen contained 4 calves, with space allowances of 0.2, 0.3 and 0.5 m2 per calf and flooring of solid metal, mesh or straw bedding. A total of 432 male dairy calves were transported in 12 trips during the 2-year study. Behavioural measurements included lying during transport, and lying and drinking for 12 h after transport during recovery. Blood samples were taken prior to transport, immediately after transport and 12 h after transport. Blood samples were analysed for metabolic state (glucose, beta-hydroxy-butyrate (BOHB)), hydration (packed cell volume (PCV)) and exhaustion/bruising (creatine kinase (CK) activity). It was found that several measures were affected by age, which indicates that the physiology and in particular lying behaviour of 3-day old calves is fundamentally different from that of older calves. It is unclear how this affects their ability to cope with the stressors of transport. Space affected the posture changes and CK activity during and after transport and it is concluded that space allowance should be at least 0.3 m2 per calf for calves of average size, while CK activity suggested that providing more space to 0.5 m2 per calf may provide even greater benefits. Straw bedding is of clear benefit to calves during transport, to the extent that it may even reduce some of the negative effects of reduced space on lying behaviour. View Full-Text
Keywords: bobby calves; transport; space allowance; flooring; dairy cattle bobby calves; transport; space allowance; flooring; dairy cattle
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Jongman, E.C.; Butler, K.L. The Effect of Age, Stocking Density and Flooring during Transport on Welfare of Young Dairy Calves in Australia. Animals 2014, 4, 184-199.

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