The potential of post-mortem carcass assessments in reflecting the welfare of beef and dairy cattle

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


There is increasing interest in utilizing meat inspection data to help inform farmers of the health and welfare of their herds. The aim of this study was to determine the ability of carcass assessments in beef and dairy cattle to reflect the welfare of the live animal. A secondary aim was to determine how beef and dairy cattle differed in their incidence of various conditions at slaughter. Ante-mortem measures of lameness, cleanliness, skin lesions, hair loss and body condition, and post-mortem measures of carcass bruising and carcass weight, were assessed in 305 beef (n = 123) and dairy (n = 182) cattle from an abattoir in south-west England. The age and sex of each animal, slaughter day and number of movements before slaughter were also recorded. For dairy cattle, sex and slaughter day were predictors of carcass bruise score while skin lesion score, body condition, age, slaughter day and number of moves were predictors of carcass weight. For beef cattle, lameness score, cleanliness score and age were predictors of carcass bruise score while lameness score, body condition and sex were predictors of carcass weight. These results suggest that recording carcass weight and carcass bruising at meat inspection may have potential as a general indicator of health and welfare status in cattle. Animal characteristics such as sex and age should be taken into account when interpreting the results. In addition, recording of input-based information such as slaughter day and cattle movements may help in identifying the source of welfare problems. Dairy cattle had lower carcass weights, poorer body condition, more bruising and tended to be lamer than beef cattle. All of the recorded issues affected both breeds and are therefore relevant to record in both beef and dairy cattle. Longitudinal research is now needed to compare lifetime welfare status of cattle to damage visible on the carcass.
Period03 Jul 2019
Event titleUFAW International Symposium 2019: Advancing animal welfare science: How do we get there? - Who is it good for?
Event typeConference
LocationBruges, Belgium
Degree of RecognitionInternational