Effects of repeated transport on Holstein calf post-transport behavior and feed intake

J Anim Sci. 2015 Feb;93(2):731-6. doi: 10.2527/jas.2014-7724.


Previous studies have determined that stress causes decreases in feed intake and efficiency in livestock, but the effect of repeated transport on these parameters has not been well studied. This study determined how repeated transport affected calf post-transport behavior, feed intake, ADG, and feed conversion. Thirty-six 4-mo-old Holstein steer calves were housed in groups of 6 with each group randomly assigned to either transport or control treatments. Each calf was assigned to an individual Calan gate feeder and feed intake was recorded daily. Transport calves were transported for 6 h in their groups in a 7.3 by 2.4 m gooseneck trailer divided into 3 compartments, at an average density of 0.87 m/calf, every 7 d for 5 consecutive weeks. After return to their home pens, behavior was recorded for transported calves at 5-min intervals for 1 h. Calf ADG and feed conversion were analyzed in a mixed model ANOVA, whereas feed intake was analyzed as a repeated measure in a mixed model ANOVA. Post-transport, calves followed a pattern of drinking, eating, and then lying down. The highest (82 ± 5% calves) and lowest (0 ± 5% calves) incidences of eating behavior occurred 10 and 60 min post-transport, respectively. Control calves had a higher feed intake than transported calves overall (7.29 ± 0.22 kg for control and 6.91 ± 0.21 kg for transport; = 0.01), for the feeding posttreatment (6.78 ± 0.27 kg for control and 6.01 ± 0.28 kg for transport; = 0.007), and the day after treatment (7.83 ± 0.23 kg for control and 7.08 ± 0.15 kg for transport; = 0.02). Feed intake for the feeding post-transport for transport calves significantly decreased after the second transport but increased with each successive transport ( < 0.0001). Overall, control calves had higher ADG than transported calves (1.34 ± 0.13 kg/d for control and 1.15 ± 0.12 kg/d for transport; = 0.006). No significant difference ( = 0.12) between treatments was detected for feed conversion. These results suggest that calves exposed to repeated transport may decrease feed intake compared to nontransported calves as an initial response to transport; however, overall feed conversion was not affected and these Holstein calves may have quickly acclimated to repeated transport.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Cattle / physiology*
  • Cattle / psychology
  • Drinking / physiology*
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Housing, Animal
  • Male
  • Random Allocation
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Time Factors
  • Transportation*
  • Weight Gain / physiology