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Lowering Stress In Transported Goats

Division: Agriculture and Rural
History: New
Written by: C. Richardson - Animal Care Specialist/OMAFRA
Table of Contents
1. Handling and Loading
2. Travelling
3. Controlling Transport Environment
4. Handling Goats At The Abattoir
5. Summary
6. References
7. Loading Density Graphs

Any stress goats experience in transportation can adversely affect their immune system and carcass quality. Everyone who handles goats, from the time they are gathered for transportation until they are settled at their final destination, has a responsibility for the goats' well-being. You will deliver a healthier animal or higher quality product by reducing or eliminating causes of stress related to transportation. Plan to handle goats with care, provide safe transport and ensure appropriate conditions during transportation and unloading.

Handling and Loading

Ensure all animals are fit to be transported. Do not transport sick, weak or extremely thin goats.

° Load goats carefully. When lifting a goat into a vehicle, grasp it around the body, being sure to support the chest and abdomen. Never lift goats by the head, horns, ears, hair or legs.
° To prevent injury and bruising separate larger goats or other species of livestock on vehicles from smaller goats. In close confinement, the aggressive behaviour of dominant goats can increase, leading to more attacks and possible injuries. Heavier goats may more than double their attacks when placed with lighter goats. Horn hooking and bunting are the most frequently observed behaviours during clashes. Bruising increases when horned goats are placed in crowded conditions. Figure 1 demonstrates the use of a rattle paddle handling device that is a low stress, non-bruising tool for sorting and handling of goats.
° Supply adequate bedding over a non-skid floor in the vehicle (or spread sand over the floor before putting in the bedding) to give the goats sure footing. Being deprived of sure footing increases the potential for injury.


Figure 1. Plastic paddle handling device: Low stress, non-bruising tool used for sorting and handling of goats
Travelling

The way the vehicle is driven greatly affects a goat's stability and balance while being transported. Goats become fearful when their standing position is disturbed or if they have unstable footing on the floor of a moving vehicle.

° Use a loading dock that allows vehicles to drive away from it with minimal turns, stops and starts. A rough start causes hormones and blood components to fluctuate and may increase heart rates up to twice the normal rate.
° Drive cautiously when transporting goats to reduce the chance goats will fall. Braking and cornering cause 75% of falls; crossing bumps and accelerating account for 25% of falls.

° Accelerate slowly and smoothly.
° Plan your braking and slow down gradually.
° Drive slowly when going around corners or crossing bumps.

The noise level in livestock trailers is often high and varies little with speed or type of road travelled. Noise has a greater effect on releasing stress-related hormones in goats than motion does.

° Tighten loose metal fittings and flooring in the trailer to reduce rattling noise.
° Wrap rubber (e.g., rubber hose) around portable loading chutes and partitions to reduce banging noise.

It is important to use a safe vehicle with no known physical features that could cause injury to an animal.

° Put padding over hinges, latches and other supports to prevent bruising if a goat accidentally falls against projections. Forceful contact with the vehicle causes bruising.
° Prevent engine exhaust from entering the area occupied by the goats.

Controlling Transport Environment

Goats become susceptible to respiratory infections after prolonged trips under adverse weather conditions. Physical stress responses generally begin decreasing within 3 hours after the end of transportation. However, transportation stress could have a long-term affect on the immune system of goats.

Overcrowding

Overcrowding in any weather condition, or on long trips, can harm goats. Signs of overcrowding and animal discomfort during transportation include:

° moving around and not settling in one place for the trip
° scrambling for footing
° continuing noise from animals for a prolonged time
° lying down involuntarily and, possibly, being unable to get up.

Use Figure 2 and Figure 3 graphs to determine the best stocking density for your vehicle. For trips longer than 24 hours reduce the loading density by 15% of the maximum to allow room for goats to lie down.

Cool Weather

Goats, kids in particular, are susceptible to loss of body heat and frostbite. Avoid cold stress during transportation in cool wet weather, as well as in cold weather. Check for signs of animal discomfort (cold stress) during transportation (e.g., wet goats, eating of available bedding or fluids frozen to the face or nostrils).

In cool and cold conditions:

° keep goats dry

° increase bedding

° cover openings in the vehicle to protect goats from cold winds and freezing rain. (Wind chill lowers the environmental temperature.) Adjustable weather panels on the outside of a vehicle allows adjustments without unloading the goats

° avoid overcrowding. Goats packed too tightly are predisposed to frostbite because individual animals cannot change position in the vehicle and move away from the wind

° stop and check on the goats after the first hour of the trip and every 2-3 hours after.

Hot Weather

It is critical to have good ventilation available at all times when goats are in the vehicle. In hot and, particularly humid weather, take extra precautions to avoid heat stress in goats.

In hot conditions:

° Ensure there is no restriction on airflow through the vehicle.
° Avoid using internal barriers that will restrict air movement.
Avoid overcrowding that can cause a severe heat build-up. Reduce the loading density by 15% from normal on hot/humid days (see Figures 2 and Figure 3).
° Schedule transportation for night or early morning when temperatures are cooler.
° Avoid times and routes with intense traffic congestion.
° Keep the frequency and length of stops to a minimum to prevent rapid buildup of heat inside the vehicle.
° Never park a loaded vehicle in direct sunlight.

The upper limit of heat tolerance for goats is 35°C-40°C (95°F-104°F). Goats pant when overheated.

° Stop and check on the goats after the first hour of the trip and every 2-3 hours afterward.
° Watch for animals standing with their necks extended and breathing with open mouths, as signs of severe heat stress.
° Revive a severely overheated goat by gently running cold water over the back of its head.

Handling Goats At The Abattoir

Stress in goats just before processing at the abattoir greatly affects muscle metabolism and may reduce meat quality. All the benefits of low stress loading and transport will be lost if goats are exposed to stressors before being processed. Stress burns up additional energy in muscles. Processing when muscle energy is low or being replenished can cause dark-cutting meat

Water and Feed

Fasting does help reduce carcass contamination by gut contents during processing; however, depriving goats of feed and water can also increase stress.

Give goats water up to the time of loading for transport. They very rarely drink during the holding period prior to processing.
Provide feed during the holding period. Extended fasting due to prolonged holding of goats, especially during hot weather, increases stress in goats and can produce muscle damage that affects meat quality.

Grouping

Unfamiliar surroundings and isolation from other goats can make goats nervous. The new environment at the abattoir may be a stronger stressor than feed deprivation for goats. The longer they remain in isolation, the greater the emotional stress they experience.

Allow goats to have constant visual contact with the goat in front of them to make handling easier and to reduce the animals' stress prior to processing.

Summary

Low-stress transportation can improve the health and carcass quality of goats. Everyone involved in transporting goats has a responsibility to reduce or eliminate potential stress factors. Use animal-friendly, low-stress loading and holding facilities. Ensure driving habits provide goats with a safe ride. Be sure vehicles are appropriate and comfortable for transporting goats. In addition, to maintain meat quality, provide goats with some water and feed and keep them from being isolated before processing.

References

Canadian Agri-Food Research Council (2001). Recommended code of practice for the care and handling of farm animals, Transportation
Canadian Agri-Food Research Council (2004). Recommended codes of practice for the care and handling of goats

Loading Density Graphs

The minimum space needed for goats in transit is based on their average individual body weight. Figure 2, Loading densities for transporting goats (metric measurements) and Figure 3, Loading densities for transporting goats (imperial measurements), on the next pages show two different ways to determine how many goats a trailer can normally hold. The bottom line in each graph shows the minimum floor area per animal and corresponds with the right axis. The top line in each graph shows the maximum trailer carrying capacity and corresponds with the numbers on the left axis.

In hot, humid weather or on trips longer than 24 hours, the floor area and trailer capacity should be 85% of normal.


Figure 2. Loading densities for transporting goats (metric measurements)
(Courtesy of the Canadian Agri-Food Research Council)
1. Example using minimum floor area per animal:
According to the bottom line and right axis of the graph, a 45 kg goat needs a minimum floor area of 0.25 m2. A standard 2.61 m wide trailer (2.55 m internal width) that is 6 m long has 15.3 m2 of floor area. The maximum number of 45 kg goats for this trailer would be 61. In hot, humid weather or on long trips, the maximum number of goats for this trailer would be 52.

Calculation:
2.55 m of trailer width x 6 m = 15.3 m2 of floor area in the trailer.
15.3 m2 of floor area/0.25 m2 per 45 kg goat = 61.2 goats
15.3 m2 of floor area/0.25 m2 per 45 kg goat x 85% = 52.0 goats

2. Example using maximum trailer carrying capacity:
According to the top line and the left axis of the graph, the maximum trailer capacity for 45 kg goats is 181.5 kg/m2. A standard 2.61 m wide trailer (2.55 m internal width) would carry 462.8 kg of these goats per running metre of deck. A 6 m trailer would carry a maximum of 2,777 kg of these goats, or 61 goats. In hot, humid weather or on long trips the maximum trailer capacity would be 52 goats.

Calculation:
2.55 m of trailer width x maximum trailer capacity of 181.5 kg/m2 for 45 kg goats = 462.8 kg of goats per running metre of trailer deck
6 m of deck x 462.8 kg of goats/m = 2,777 kg of goats
2,777 kg of goats/45 kg per goat = 61.7 goats
2,777 kg of goats/45 kg per goat x 85% = 52.5 goats


Figure 3. Loading densities for transporting goats (imperial measurements)
(Courtesy of the Canadian Agri-Food Research Council)
1. Example using minimum floor area per animal:
According to the bottom line and right axis of the graph, a 90 lb. goat needs a minimum floor area of 2.5 ft.2. A standard 102 in. wide trailer (8.3 ft. internal width) that is 20 ft. long has 166 ft2 of floor area. The maximum number of 90 lb. goats for this trailer would be 66. In hot, humid weather or on long trips, the maximum number of goats for this trailer would be 56.

Calculation:
8.3 ft. of trailer width x 20 ft. = 166 ft2 of floor area in the trailer
166ft2 of floor area/2.5 ft2 per 90 lb. goat = 66.4 goats
166ft2 of floor area/2.5 ft2 per 90 lb. goat x 85% = 56.4 goats

2. Example using maximum trailer carrying capacity:
According to the top line and the left axis of the graph, the maximum trailer capacity for 90 lb. goats is 36 lb./ft.2. A standard 102 in. wide trailer (8.3 ft. internal width) would carry 299 lb. of these goats per running foot of deck. A 20 ft. trailer would carry a maximum of 5,980 lb. of these goats, or 66 goats. In hot, humid weather or on long trips the maximum trailer capacity would be 56 goats.

Calculation:
8.3 ft. of trailer width x maximum trailer capacity of 36 lb./ft.2 for 90 lb. goats = 299 lb. of goats per running foot of trailer deck
20 ft. of deck x 299 lb. of goats/ft. = 5,980 lb. of goats
5,980 lb. of goats/90 lb. per goat = 66.4 goats
5,980 lb. of goats/90 lb. per goat x 85% = 56.5 goats

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
Local: (519) 826-4047
Email: ag.info@omafra.gov.on.ca


 


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