Aims: To determine the reasons for pre-slaughter mortality and post-slaughter wastage in New Zealand bobby veal calves, and to assess compliance with the national animal welfare codes at a slaughter premises in New Zealand.
Methods: The study was conducted at a single slaughter premises in Southland, New Zealand, during the 2011 bobby veal processing season. Calves that died during the pre-slaughter period underwent post-mortem examination to identify the reasons for death and notable secondary findings. Data from calves condemned at official post-mortem meat inspection were also analysed.
Results: The mortality risk in the pre-slaughter period was 0.7% (288/42,494) and post-slaughter condemnation losses were 0.4% (180/42,206), resulting in a total loss to food production of 1.1%. Of the calves that were examined after dying in the pre-slaughter period (n=247), digestive tract disorders (41%) and omphalitis (23%) were the most common primary diagnoses. Secondary findings in these calves included absence of curd in the abomasum (25%), immaturity (21%) and emaciation (9%). Omphalitis (54%) and septicaemia (37%) were the most common causes of post-mortem wastage.
Conclusions and clinical relevance: Digestive tract disorders, omphalitis and septicaemia were the most common reasons for pre-slaughter mortality and post-mortem wastage. Further investigation of pre-transportation husbandry and feeding practices is indicated to determine compliance with animal welfare codes by farmers that supplied calves that had no curd in the abomasum, or were immature or emaciated on arrival at the slaughter premises.