When cattle are gathered, transported and processed, they lose weight, referred to as shrink. Many factors affect how much shrink cattle will encounter, but knowledge of the contributing factors enables you to minimize it.

According to findings reported by Kent Barnes, Steve Smith and David Lalman, livestock specialists at Oklahoma State University, the type of feed consumed prior to weighing and shipping will affect total shrink. Cattle on lush green grass shrink more compared to those consuming a less digestible dried grass or hay. Calves condi-tioned with native grass hay before hauling were found to shrink less than with other types of feed. However, avoid a change of diet at shipping time by making changes early allowing animals time to adjust to the new diet.

The study also found that the time of day cattle are removed from the pasture also affects weight and rate of shrink. Allowing cattle to graze until mid-morning not only resulted in heavier weights, but also reduced the rate of shrink during the first few hours after gathering. That's because cattle gathered at first light have not had time to graze, whereas animals gathered in mid-morning have finished their major grazing period of the day and have watered.

Also, avoid excess movement by sorting prior to shipping, such as during weaning, since cattle lose weight anytime they are moved under stressful conditions. Experts agree that for each 30 minutes a group of calves are moved and sorted they may lose one-half of a percent of their weight.