Trailer compartments and densityDoes the section of the trailer that the calf is in make a difference in risk of illness or performance? That’s a hard one to quantify, but some researchers have been looking at the different compartments of livestock trucks where cattle stand, including vibration level, wind, temperature and other factors.

Studies done by Brad White, DVM, MS, Kansas State University, evaluated the potential impact of being housed in intone of the eight different truck compartments in a standard transport trailer. When unloaded at the feedyard, those calves were identifi ed by trailer compartment and monitored through a backgrounding phase. “We saw a difference in average daily gain up to the point of re-vaccination based on which compartment of the truck they were in, and cattle in the rear had a little bit lower average daily gain,” says White. “They were gaining about 3.5 pounds a day to that point. There was a higher average daily gain in the front two compartments.”

Looking at just the rear, middle and nose section, the same trend holds true, White says. “If we compare the nose or front of the truck to the back of the truck we see a difference in average daily gain.” However, White notes, it’s important to point out that this difference was transient. “We saw it by day 14 but did not see any difference when we got to backgrounding closeout at day 50.”

Some observations White’s research revealed are that cattle in the forward section of the trailer were less likely to be treated than cattle in the middle. “The interior of the trailer is not homogeneous; we need more research here to determine why,” he says.

Also, calves in compartments with less than 15 head tended to have less morbidity compared to those with more than 16 head. White makes it clear he’s not advocating shipping cattle in small lots and small trailers, but when possible, keeping them in relatively small groups within the truck by shutting gates and separating compartments may decrease morbidity.

Cattle transportation studies
White and David Renter, DVM, PhD, Kansas State University, have worked with a team of researchers and collaborating veterinarians and feedlots to collect operational data from feedlot production systems. This work was funded through a USDA grant and the objective is to use these data to generate information that will improve decisions related to preventive and therapeutic management of disease in feeder calves.

“As a part of this grant, the team has worked to identify factors infl uencing the disease risk in feeder calves in order to improve our ability to more accurately predict health outcomes after arrival,” White explains. “Variables describing shrink and the distance cattle traveled to the feedlot were evaluated to determine potential associations with BRD after arrival.”

Read the full article on the effects of shipping cattle on feedlot cattle in Bovine Veterinarian here.