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Epidemiology of Compromised and Unfit Cattle Arriving at Auction Markets and Abattoirs in Alberta



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Compromised and unfit cattle are a major welfare concern. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has criteria to monitor cattle arriving in these conditions at auction markets (AM), provincial (PA) and federal abattoirs (FA). Currently there is a lack of scientific data supporting the prevalence of compromised and unfit cattle arriving at central collection points. A pretest investigated the arrival conditions of cattle (n=2270) at central collection points in Alberta (AB). There is no standard method for assessing compromised and unfit conditions. A new assessment tool was developed to describe the severity of conditions and define compromised or unfit conditions. The inter-rater reliability weighted Kappa value between two observers was κ > 0.85, which provided confidence in the repeatability of the tool in the larger study. Two trained observers assessed a random sample of cattle arriving to 20 locations in AB over one year. Cattle were observed at eight AM (n = 4561), 11 PA (n = 1069), and one FA (n = 4013). The effect of cattle type (beef or dairy), age (feeder/fat or mature), and seasonality (winter, summer, and fall), and mud coverage (above or below knees) was also assessed. Mature cattle had greater odds of arriving to AM (23.3; confidence interval [CI] = 13.8 to 39.3; p < 0.01), PA (2.8; CI= 1.7 to 4.5; p < 0.01) and FA (1.7; CI= 1.1 to 1.7; p = 0.02) in a compromised or unfit condition than feeder/fat cattle. Dairy cattle had greater odds of arriving to AM (7.5; CI = 5.3 to 10.6; p < 0.01) and PA (2.7; 1.4 to 5.1; p < 0.01) in a compromised or unfit condition than beef cattle. The odds of cattle arriving to PA in a compromised or unfit condition were 2.0 times greater in summer (CI= 1.3 to 3.0; p<0.01) and 1.8 times greater in fall months (CI= 1.1 to 2.7; p < 0.01). Cow-level factors (age and cattle type) need to be considered when transporting cattle. Producer education regarding which cattle conditions result in poor welfare outcomes would aid in reducing unnecessary suffering of cattle being transported for sale or slaughter.



Compromised, Unfit, Cattle, Welfare, Transportation



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Large Animal Clinical Sciences


Large Animal Clinical Sciences


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