Improving Animal Welfare: A Practical Approach (2nd Edition)

Edited by Dr. Temple Grandin
Colorado State University, USA

ISBN: 978-1-78064-467-7
c. 368 pages
131 figures/illustrations

Subject Classifcation: KNAC, PSVP, TVH, TW
Territorial Market Rights: World
Published by CABI

Links for ordering:


Chapter 11: Welfare during transport of livestock and poultry.

by Temple Grandin

One of the biggest welfare problems is fitness of the animals for transport. This is especially problematic with old cull breeding animals that have little economic value. Some of the topics covered in this chapter are:

This chapter contains 9 pictures and diagrams of cattle truck loading ramp designs, tethering of tame cattle in transport vehicles, and a heat stress chart.

Chapter 11 also contains solving bruise problems in cattle, pigs, and sheep.

Below is an excerpt from Chapter 11...

Solving Bruise and Injury Problems in Poultry

Bruised legs The author has observed that rough shackling is a major cause of bruised drumsticks. The people doing the shackling squeeze the legs too hard when they put the birds on the shackles. An understaffed shackle line where people have to hurry is one cause of bruised legs.

Bruised chicken breasts There are two major causes of bruised chicken breasts. One cause is jamming birds too quickly through the small opening in the top of the coop. The other cause results from machine catching systems when birds are jammed against the coop door by a conveyor that is out of alignment.

Smashed heads This injury is most likely to occur when drawer systems are used for transporting chickens, where the birds are put in trays that are slid into rack-like dresser drawers (Fig. 7.11). Drawer systems that have been redesigned so that there is a gap between the top of the drawer and the rack frame seldom have this problem. This gap prevents the head of a chicken from being smashed when the drawer full of chickens is slid back into the rack.

Broken wings The number one cause of this problem is rough handling during catching. Chickens should NEVER be picked up by a single wing. Measuring the percentage of broken wings is a sensitive measure of how the people are handling the birds. Broken wings can also occur in systems where birds have to be removed from the coop through a small door. When individual coops are used, the best ones have a small door for loading the birds and the entire top opens to remove the birds for shackling at the plant.

Table 7.1 shows a big difference in the percentage of chickens with broken wings between the best and the worst plants. Some ethicists are hesitant to state an acceptable level of broken wings because that translates into thousands of birds with broken wings. The author has observed that when numerical standards were introduced for measuring broken wings, they were greatly reduced. In the USA before measurements started, 5-6% of the birds had broken wings. With the present data today, a reasonable goal would be 1% and plants with 3% are clearly not acceptable.

Broken legs In spent hens, weak bones is a major contributor to fractures (Webster, 2004). In broiler chickens, rough handling is a major cause. There is much controversy among welfare specialists on the correct way to pick up chickens during catching. Some specialists state that they should never be picked up by a single leg. In some countries, this is the normal catching method. The author has observed one-legged catching where the number of birds injured was very low. The coops were brought into the barn close to the catcher. The catcher never walked more than 3m to load the chickens into the coops.

Recommendations on catching methods It is the authorís opinion that instead of arguing over whether poultry are hand caught or machine caught or caught by one leg or two legs, or lifted by the entire body, the best approach is to measure injuries and deaths. These measurements can be made by measuring the percentage of:

These percentages will measure the outcome of poor handling. Broken wings should he counted when the feathers are on to prevent counting breakage from the feather-removal picking machine. The broken wing score should include both breaks and dislocations.

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