Understand cattle behaviour to achieve low-stress handling

17 Apr 2020

Stress in cattle can cause them and their handlers many problems, ultimately resulting in financial loss for the cattle farming business.

Adherence to animal welfare protocols continues to be a concern, not only in the Namibian farming environment, but worldwide as well. Since Meatco operates in accordance with the European Union (EU) Animal Health and Welfare Regulations and Protocols, the delivery of stressed animals should be avoided at all costs.

Stress in animals causes the suppression of their immune system, resulting in animals being susceptible to diseases such as Shipping Fever (Pasteurella) and Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD). These diseases can be fatal or accrued depending on the amount of stress exerted on the animal. The microorganisms in the animal multiply because of the suppression of the immune system, resulting in the animal getting sick. Stressors include heat stress, post-weaning stress, cold stress and transportation stress. Stressed animals lose their appetite and productivity during production time.

Animal welfare refers to treating an animal in the most humane way possible, including handling before and after slaughter, and before the final product is packaged.

Failure to handle animals well prior to and during transportation result in a condition called Dark Firm Dry (DFD) meat visible by the dark colour caused by a high concentration of pH in the carcass, which creates a favourable environment for the multiplication of microorganisms that affect the shelf-life of the end-product.

According to veterinarian, Dr Israel Kaatura, when an animal is stressed, it releases a hormone called adrenaline, which is responsible for the destruction of the immune system.

Farmers adhering to the five freedoms of animals, namely freedom to express normal behaviour, freedom from fear, freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from illness and injuries, and freedom from discomfort will guarantee marketing opportunities for their animals at Meatco.