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Research targets cattle weight loss during inter-island travel

Beef Central, 15/05/2012

Researchers from James Cook University in Townsville are looking at ways to reduce cattle weight loss during inter-island transportation in Indonesia.

Cattle can lose up to 15pc of their live weight during transportation, resulting in a significant decrease in the amount paid to the farmer.

The researchers say that while their work has an Indonesian focus, it could also influence how cattle transportation stress is managed in Australia.

To measure the effects of the stress on muscle glycogen concentrations, a herd of Bos Indicus bulls will be transported around North Queensland.

According to Cardial Penu, JCU international masters student and research leader, cattle are important to the Indonesian economy with 50,000 to 60,000 transported from Timor Island to Jakarta each year.

The main problems caused by inter-island transportation include loss of short-term appetite and live weight loss. Farmers are paid based on the live weight of the cattle on arrival at Jakarta – not on the live weight at the farm in Timor.

Lecturer and Research Supervisor at the School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Dr Anthony Parker said Cardial’s research aimed to find ways of maintaining live weight by minimising inter-island transport stress, and to help improve farmers’ financial status in this process.

“If we can identify the factors that contribute to live weight loss and energy deficiency in cattle during the transportation process, perhaps we can come up with strategies to minimise stress, and improve meat quality and shelf life,” Dr Parker said.

“Glycogen, a muscle sugar, depletes rapidly when an animal is placed in a stressful situation, so we’re focusing on how to maintain muscle glycogen in the body.

“Australia has some of the same issues as Indonesia as the cattle in North Queensland are required to be transported at some stage in their life,” Dr Parker said.

“The livestock transportation industry in Australia has done a lot to help minimise stress with purpose built trailers designed to improve animal comfort during on-road transport, but there’s always room for improvement throughout the transportation and handling process for cattle.”

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