Moving is stressful — whether to a new school, job or town. In much the same way, a change in environment will cause beef cattle to be stressed, said the experts at Kansas State University’s Beef Cattle Institute on a Cattle Chat podcast.
“When cattle are stressed, the first thing they do is urinate and defecate, which leads to immediate weight loss,” said Dr. Brad White, Kansas State University veterinarian.
And that weight loss can cost producers lost income, nutritionist Phillip Lancaster said.
Lancaster said, “When we take cattle to the sale barn, we are getting paid by the pound, so we need to reduce the amount of shrink those cattle experience as much as possible.”
White explained shrink as “the amount of weight lost prior to when they are sold.”
He cited a Kansas State University study, which measured the amount of shrink that 700-pound calves typically experience. The calves were driven on a trailer two hours away and brought back to their starting facility.
White said, “Our study showed that the cattle lost five percent to six percent of their total body weight, and most of that loss happened immediately when we put them in a loading situation.”
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Dr. Bob Larson, veterinarian, said that amount of loss is not uncommon. Producers can expect cattle will lose at least two percent to three percent, and that amount is unavoidable. However he added that there are ways to keep that percentage from increasing.
To put that into perspective, White said that five percent loss on a 500-pound calf is 25 pounds.
“If you told me that I could add 25 pounds of weaning weight on my calves, I’d be doing everything I could do to implement those strategies,” he said.
The Kansas State University experts agreed that moving cattle in a way that minimizes the amount of stress they experience is important.
Larson said, “Make sure your facilities are set up in a way that the cattle can easily move through them and avoid injury.”
Lancaster said it is important to keep cattle from standing in a holding pen for long periods of time. That is also true regarding the amount of time they spend standing at the sale facility, according to Larson.
“To minimize shrink, you need to move cattle in a quiet way, get them loaded smoothly and deliver them to the auction facility close to sale time,” Larson said.
Visit ksubci.org for more information.