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Animal. 2008 Jul;2(7):1073-9. doi: 10.1017/S1751731108002024.

Administration of dexamethasone per os in finishing bulls. I. Effects on productive traits, meat quality and cattle behaviour as indicator of welfare.

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  • 11Department of Animal Science, University of Padua, Padua, Italy.


The study investigated the effects of prolonged oral administration of dexamethasone at a low daily dosage of 0.75 mg/head per day (Dexa) on beef cattle productive traits, behaviour and meat quality. In all, 14 finishing Marchigiana bulls were used in a trial that begun 56 days prior to slaughter, of which six bulls received treatment from day 5 to day 53, whereas the remaining animals were used for Control. The animals treated showed an increased average daily gain (1515 v. 1177 g/head per day; P < 0.05; s.e.d. = 48.54) and improved warm carcass dressing percentage (60.8% v. 59.7%; P < 0.05; s.e.d. = 0.32). Behavioural observation did not permit a clear distinction between treated and Control animals since feeding and social behaviour were similar in both groups. The bulls treated spent less time lying (16.5% v. 34.6%; P < 0.05; s.e.d. = 4.38) and grooming (6.7% v. 11.9%; P < 0.05; s.e.d. = 1.23), and this may indicate poorer welfare. No evidence of treatment was observed in other carcass traits, and redness was the only meat quality parameter slightly affected by corticosteroid administration.

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