Misc. Bio-Ag Consultants & Distributors Inc

By: Bio-ag Consultants  09-12-2011
Keywords: Animals, Beef, Cattle

Final Report:

S.L. Armstrong(1), J.A. B. Robinson(1&2) and W.R. Haye(3)

1-Beef Improvement Ontario, 6986 Wellington Road 124 South, R.R. 7, Guelph, Ontario N1H 6J4

2-Center for Genetic Improvement of Livestock, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G W1

3-Better Beef Ltd, 781 York Road, Guelph, Ontario N1E 6N1


The reduction of bruising in cattle can have a significant economic benefit for the Canadian cattle industry. The Canadian Beef Cattle Quality Audit (CBQA) in 1995-1996 found that 22% of cattle and 12% had four or more bruises (Executive Summary: Canadian Beef Quality Audit, 1996). The National Beef Quality Audit (National Cattleman\'92 s Association, 1995; Boleman et al, 1998) found that 48% of fed steer and heifer carcasses had bruising. This is a sizable increase compared to an earlier National Beef Quality Audit (Lorenzen et al., 1993) where 39% of carcasses had bruises.

The severity of carcass bruises will affect the amount of carcass trim, which represents a monetary loss to the producer, packer and Canadian cattle industry. The CBQA (1996) found that 81% of bruises were minor, 14% were major and 5% were critical.

Bruises can occur at all stages in the production and marketing chain. Movement of cattle increases the likelihood that they can impact on each other and fixed objects in the environment which means transporting cattle has been directly associated with that incidence of bruising. Some of the major causes of bruises during transportation as identified by Grandin (1981) are rough handling, jostling in trucks and catching hips on truck doors and gates. Other factors during cattle transportation that can cause bruising are loading and unloading of cattle. Messer (1994) found that unloading rather than loading has more potential for cattle to be injured because cattle readily move from dark to light, and as a result, may rush out of the trailer or truck and impact on corners and edges on their way. Most cattle bump against structures at least once during unloading (Blackshaw et al., 1987) and are likely to hit their hips and shoulders (Anderson, 1973).

Bruising can be significantly reduced by using simple management improvement techniques (Grandin, 1981, Smith et al., 1994). Messer (1994) recommended that gates in loading and unloading areas be padded. The NCA Beef Quality Audit (1994) recommended that the incidence of bruises could be reduced by improving or correcting deficiencies in transportation. A priority of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is the recommendation of safe livestock transportation practices that reduce animal injuries (Humane Transportation Review, 1995). Recording transportation and carcass bruise information and implementing management improvement tools such as the Livestock Safety Cushion to reduce loss of carcass value due to bruise trim represents a small cost relative to major potential benefits to the beef industry.

This study was designed to determine if use of the livestock Safety Cushion would significantly reduce the incidence of cattle bruising during transportation compared to the incidence of cattle bruising without the Livestock Safety Cushion. This study was the first step in determining if other practices could be undertaken to increase the value of the carcass, as well as identifying how other carcass defects such as dark cutting could be reduced.

The Livestock Safety Cushion used in this study was gray in colour to minimize distraction for the cattle (it also comes in white and safety yellow). The product itself is a double coil of low friction polyolefin that has multiple walls and a large radius profile without corners (the cushion looks somewhat like a scroll \'96 two coils of plastic with a connecting web used for mounting the product). To increase the impact resistance, the sections of the product can be slid within one another to double up the coils. When impacted, the coils compress like the winding of a clock spring to absorb impact and then rebound to their original shape. This way the product always presents a rounded surface to the animal, even during impact. Originally designed for marine applications around docks and piers to protect the finish and hulls of boats, the product can with stand continued exposure to UV light and the rigours of a Canadian climate. All mounting hardware is in the interior of the cushion so cattle are not exposed to blots and fasteners.

Assessment of the Livestock Safety Cushion

Differences were examined between the padded and unpadded trailers for the control and trail comparison test group. In addition to the padded versus unpadded trailers, the sex of the load (all steers, all heifers or mixed, P < 0.05), the number of animals in the load (animal density, P < 0.001) and the cooperator (feedlot of origin, P < 0.10) were found to have a significant effect on the percent of bruises per animal/load. Therefore, as shown in the model described above, the effects of sex and feedlot of origin and the regression of number of animals in the load was accounted for in the statistical model. Modeling the data in this way allowed for the isolation of the effect of the padding in the trailers. As a result of this analysis, there is a difference in percent of total bruising of 9.4% (significant at p< 0.05) in favour of padding in the trailers. The percent of total bruising found on the padded trailers was 30.1% compared to 39.5% in the unpadded trailers.


The findings in this study have shown that there is a high incidence (54%) of bruising in fed cattle. From the CBQA, approximately $11 million is lost annually in the Canadian beef industry. Any management improvement tool that can be used to reduce bruise damage will be beneficial to the beef industry. In this study, the use of the Livestock Safety Cushion significantly reduced bruising in transportation of cattle, especially reducing major bruising in the loin, the most valuable primal cut. Use of this management tool can result in the reduction of losses due to bruise trim. Using economic figures from the CBQA, this study found a potential value to the industry of $0.39 per animal or $1,047,150 per year. Trim of loins could be reduced by 0.0364 lbs. per animal or about 48 tons per year. As well, use of this padding can demonstrate the Canadian cattle industry\'92 s commitment to the humane treatment of livestock. Implementation of management improvement tools such as the Livestock Safety Cushion to reduce loss of carcass value represents a small cost relative to major benefits.

This study also identified how improving other management practices could further increase the value of the carcass. Significant variation in bruising from feedlots is a good example of how the use of good handling facilities, management practices and handling of cattle can minimize bruising. Hot carcass weight was found to have a significant effect on bruising incidence, with smaller sized animals having a higher percent of bruising. This suggests that overall bruising of a lot would be reduced by sorting cattle by similar size when putting together lots for shipping, provided the extra handling does not negate the effects of reducing size differences. Although it increases handling, this may have the added benefit of realizing extra revenue for uniformity.

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The information in this article was current at 06 Dec 2011

Keywords: Animals, Beef, Cattle

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