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N Z Vet J. 2012 May;60(3):171-5. doi: 10.1080/00480169.2011.645202. Epub 2012 Mar 27.

Current practices on sheep and beef farms in New Zealand for depriving sheep of feed prior to transport for slaughter.

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Kotare Bioethics, Hastings, New Zealand.



To assess current practices on sheep and beef farms that deprive sheep of feed prior to transport to facilitate effluent management and processing at slaughter.


A national telephone survey of 122 sheep and 346 sheep and beef farmers was conducted in March and April 2010. They were asked how long sheep were held off green feed prior to transport and why, what environment the sheep were held in, and if that period ever varied.


Of the 468 respondents, 303 (65%) removed their sheep from green feed 3-12 h before transport for slaughter, with longer periods reported in the South than North Island. The main reasons given were to reduce the volume of effluent for transport operators (n=174), to prevent wool staining during transport (n=173), and that sheep were better suited to load and travel empty (n=171). Water was provided during feed deprivation by 313 farmers. The period of food deprivation could be altered in response to requirements of transporters and processors, the weather, and by the class of stock involved, although 115/468 (25%) farmers stated that they never changed their normal protocol.


Amongst survey respondents, common practices compared favourably with recommendations to reduce effluent during transportation. Previous studies have investigated the effects of fasting lambs whilst in lairage prior to slaughter and focussed on carcass quality such as carcass weight and tenderness. Changes in liveweight and gastrointestinal tract contents suggest feed deprivation reduces the risk of defaecation and urination contributing to the accumulation of effluent during transport and of carcass contamination during processing. However, the point at which that risk is acceptable to transport and processing is unclear. Fasting results in physiological changes indicative of altered metabolism but it is not clear when those changes are indicative of adaptation to food deprivation or metabolic depletion and compromised welfare. There may be opportunities to improve the logistics of livestock preparation, transport and processing.

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