Handling and transport are considered to be major stressors among animals. These can affect many aspects of an animals well being, especially meat quality. "The need for careful handling during the on-farm phase, in the sequence of handling operations, is just as great as during the later phases, not only in the interest of animal welfare but also to produce high meat quality." (Williams)

In this section we are going to look at the proper transport and handling techniques of sheep before slaughter. We will also briefly look at the problems that can occur due to improper transport and handling.

Transport

Of all the species of livestock, sheep are considered the most tolerant of transportation by road. Many of the requirements for transporting sheep are common sense but they are still very important to ensure good quality meat.

One of the first things to consider is the feed and water before and during the trip. Lambs should be kept off feed and water for at least 12 hours prior to trucking except in hot conditions. Water should be available for longer trips.

Another major consideration is space requirements. This table shows the average requirements for different sheep.

Category

Weight (kg)

Area animal -1 (m2)

Shorn

<55

0.2 0.3

 

>55

>0.3

Unshorn

<55

0.3 0.4

 

>55

>0.4

Pregnant ewes

<55

0.4 0.5

 

>55

>0.5

Sheep should have enough space to be able to lie down. Most sheep do not begin to lay down until 5 10 hours into the trip. Therefore, the length of the trip should be known before loading sheep. Also, when loading sheep and inside the trucks, there should be non-slip flooring and proper ventilation. According to Tarrant and Grandin, the effort needed by animals to keep their balance while the vehicle moves may be demanding in terms of energy requirements and increase the incidence of dark, firm, dry meat.

Weather is another factor when transporting animals. During hot weather, transport at night or early in the morning is recommended. This minimizes heat stress. Also shipment of wet animals in cold weather should be avoided.

Finally, sick animals should not be transported with healthy animals. Unfamiliar sheep should also not be transported together. This should prevent most behavioral stresses and injuries.

Handling

Handling is also a very important factor when discussing meat quality. The proper handling techniques should be used before and after the sheep have been transported. Poor handling can lead to serious injury, stress-induced problems with carcass quality and skin blemishes and bruising. The handling of sheep is fairly simple and if done in the right way, will ensure the best quality meat possible. Here are some of the best ways to handle sheep:

If all of these are kept in mind and practiced when handling sheep, stress will be kept to a minimum. This ensures good quality meat for consumers.

Problems caused by improper handling and transportation include physiological and psychological stress, behavioral problems, and bruising and injury to the animal. All of these problems can in turn damage the carcass, which can include dark, firm and dry or pale, soft and excutive meat. These two problems will be discussed in further detail.

 

Return to Main Page