The feasibility of using vocalization scoring as an indicator of poor welfare during cattle slaughter

Temple Grandin*
Department of Animal Sciences
Colorado State University
Fort Collins. CO 80523. USA

Applied Animal Behaviour Science 56(1998) 121-128
Accepted 15 July 1997


Vocalizations of cattle in six commercial slaughter plants were tabulated during handling in the forcing pen stunning box and single file race. Each animal was scored as being either a vocalizer or non vocalizer. Vocalizations that occurred in the lairage pens were not counted. A total of 1125 animals were observed during normal operations and 112 cattle vocalized. All vocalizations, with the exception of two, occurred immediately after a stressful event such as electric prodding, slipping on the stunning box floor, missed captive bolt stuns, or excessive pressure exerted on the animal's body by a restraining device powered by pneumatic cylinders. Electric prodding was associated with vocalization in 72 animals. In four plants, cattle were moved quietly at a walk in small groups, and electric prods were used only on cattle that refused to move. The percentages of cattle that vocalized in the stunning box, single file race and forcing pen in these four plants were 1.1%, 2.6%, 6.6% and 7.5%. Vocalizations were associated with slipping on the stunning box floor, excessive pressure from a powered tailgate and electric prodding when an animal balked because it saw a moving person up ahead. In two other plants, 90% and 76% of the cattle were prodded with an electric prod. When this excessive prod usage was stopped, vocalizations dropped from 32% to 12% of the cattle in the first plant, and from 12% to 3% in the second plant. The remaining vocalizations were due to missed stuns and excessive pressure from a restraining device. Vocalization scoring could be used as a simple method for detecting welfare problems that need to be corrected.

Copyright: 1998 Elsevier Science B.V,

Keywords: Cattle slaughtering; Vocalization; Handling welfare.

*Corresponding author.

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