Most beef cattle are transported at least once during their lives, and this potentially stressful practice may impact subsequent health and performance. The objective of this retrospective study was to determine potential associations between distance traveled during transportation with health and performance parameters in cattle cohorts (n = 14,601) that arrived to 21 U.S. commercial feedlots from 1997 to 2009. Cattle were transported a median of 343 miles from origin to feedlot with a mean of 434 miles.

  • The mean cumulative BRD morbidity was 4.9% (median = 1.1%; range: 0 to 100%), whereas the mean cumulative mortality due to all causes was 1.3% (median = 0.8%; range: 0 to 28.7%).
  • Heavier weight cattle showed significantly lower incidence risk of BRD morbidity and overall mortality compared to their lighter counterparts traveling the same distances.
  • Male cohorts showed significantly higher risks of BRD morbidity and overall mortality across different categories of distance traveled compared to female cohorts.
  • Increasing distance traveled affects BRD morbidity similarly for cattle arriving to the feedlot during winter, summer and fall months.
  • A significantly higher risk of BRD morbidity in cattle arriving during summer (July through September) months was identified after traveling distance longer than 466 miles compared to cattle arriving during winter months traveling the same distances.
  • Increasing distance traveled affects the overall mortality risk similarly for three of the seasons (winter, fall and spring), but for the summer season there appears to be a much more dramatic increase once distance is above a threshold (between 310 and 466 miles).

Knowledge of the distance traveled during transportation could allow a more precise prediction of cattle feedlot health and performance.

Source: Cernicchiaro, N. et al. 2012. Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas)