Producers know that cattle stress during handling, transporting and shipping can cause weight loss and lower carcass quality.
Now, a nutritional therapy manufactured in Alberta is designed to address these issues and reduce dark cutters in beef arriving at slaughter plants.
The product, called DeStress, is manufactured by the Wetaskiwin, Alta., co-op and its organic feed division Country Junction Feeds.
Al Schaefer of Lacombe, Alta., and colleagues worked on the formulation for more then 20 years.
In addition to use in cattle bound for slaughter, there are other areas, such as weaned calves, swine and equine production and performance, where feeding of this product provides significant benefits.
When cattle are shipped, stress in the form of low blood and muscle sugar, dehydration and the loss of electrolytes and amino acids occurs regardless of the distance. This is seen overall as shrinkage.
Animals experience it in various degrees, depending on genetics, weather, excitability or docility of the cattle, as well as the method of handling.
Cattle owners may be able to offset potential shipping losses by feeding DeStress nutritional therapy product before transport to replace the expected nutrient depletion that occurs during shipping.
Shrink generally occurs when transporting cattle to a slaughter plant, auction market or home from pasture. Some is caused by fecal loss, urine loss and sweat, but muscle loss is also to blame.
Muscle loss becomes excessive when it climbs above two to four percent, at which point treating stress can result in significant benefits.
Sometimes, freshly weaned cattle that have been transported and held overnight at auction markets can have weight shrinkage of more than 10 percent.
If the weight loss is not replenished quickly, cattle are more prone to get sick from other causes, or in the case of slaughter animals, dark cutters will increase.
DeStress is a registered nutritive supplement so has no slaughter withdrawal time and is not considered a pharmaceutical. It contains a combination of electrolytes, amino acids and certain blood sugars.
It is designed to serve a similar role as does administering electrolytes to a scouring calf or a stressed diarrheic show bull to counteract dehydration.
It is easy to administer as a feed supplement, mixed into feed 24 hours before transportation. Schaefer and his colleagues found about one to two percent less shrinkage compared to controls, which is deemed statistically significant.
The improved shrinkage rates represent about 15 to 30 pounds on a 1,500 lb. market weight animal.
As well, improvements in carcass yield and grade were noticed.
In addition to the benefits it provides for cattle finishers, the cattle industry overall benefits through lower cattle illnesses and death rates provided by a non-prescription product.
In the future, there may be more specific guidelines on when a nutritive supplement may become mandatory, such as type of cattle, temperament, shipping distance and ambient temperature.
The research from Schaefer’s group also determined that the top and front of cattle liners cause more shrink on average than cattle in the main lower compartment of transports. In upper compartments, there was an average of more than eight percent shrink on 900 lb. feeders, which converts to more than 70 lb. The nutritive supplement will significantly reduce some of these losses.
I suggest going to the website www.destress-nutrition.com for more information.
It is one more tool to insure healthy, well-treated cattle are being raised on Canadian farms.
Roy Lewis works as a technical services veterinarian part time with Merck Animal Health in Alberta.