Relationships between on-farm and pre-slaughter behaviour and growth and meat quality for bulls and steers

TitleRelationships between on-farm and pre-slaughter behaviour and growth and meat quality for bulls and steers
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsDL, Burnham, RW Purchas, and ST Morris
Conference NameProceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production
Date PublishedJan
PublisherNew Zealand Society of Animal Production
Conference LocationChristchurch
KeywordsBull beef

Angus and Hereford-Angus cross bulls (n = 58) and steers (n = 59) were assessed for temperament 3 times during post-weaning growth and for behaviour during pre-slaughter holding in order to investigate relationships between these traits and measures of growth and meat quality including meat tenderness and meat colour. Composite on-farm temperament scores encompassed measures during weighing of stepping and unease on the scale, and speed of movement and level of agitation when released from the scale. Pre-slaughter assessments included counts of butting, pushing, fighting and mounting. Plasma levels of cortisol, glucose, lactate and fatty acids at slaughter were measured. On-farm temperament scores were significantly correlated (P < 0.0001) between the 3 times and between measures within a time. On-farm measures, however, were not related to pre-slaughter scores or to plasma cortisol or metabolite levels. Plasma cortisol levels were significantly higher for steers than bulls (43.8 vs 22.4 ng/ml; P < 0.001) as reported previously, and bulls had significantly higher pre-slaughter behaviour scores, but there were no castration effects on levels of plasma metabolites or on-farm temperament scores. Relationships between behavioural traits and measures of growth rate and meat quality based on treatment-adjusted residuals were low and non-significant. It is concluded that despite on-farm temperament scores being moderately repeatable, these measures were not associated with differences in pre-slaughter behaviour, and neither of these traits was associated with growth rate or measures of meat quality. KEYWORDS: animal behaviour; meat quality; meat pH; cortisol; growth rate; tenderness.

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