James P. Hogan et al review The physiological and metabolic impacts on sheep and cattle of feed and water deprivation before and during transport in Nutrition Research Reviews (2007). 20. 17-28
In traditional livestock farming systems, animals were driven across land on foot, receiving food and water en route, but nowadays they are nearly always transported by road or rail. This is usually from a farm to a market, or abattoir, or from a farm specialised in breeding stock to one reserved for fattening. Such journeys can cover thousands of km and take several days. Food and water provision is nearly always suspended during transportation and it is also common practice to deny sheep and cattle access to feed and water for several hours before transport. The practice of feed and water deprivation before transport was first called a ‘curfew by Wythes. This is distinct from undernutrition (a prolonged inadequate supply of nutrients to sustain good health and, in the case of immature or underweight animals, growth potential’) and malnutrition (‘a deficit, imbalance or excess of nutrients with consequential adverse effects on health and growth potential’)”.
The feed and water deprivation before transport has two main aims. The first is to reduce digesta load in the gastrointestinal tract in an attempt to reduce fouling of other animals, the trucks and roads over which they pass, and carcass contamination. The second, in situations where animals arc sold by weight, is to permit a more accurate prediction of carcass weight.
The short-term interruption to nutrient supply associated with feed and water deprivation will in particular affect functioning of the rumen and the rest of the digestive tract, tissue homeostasis and control of enteropathogenic bacteria by rumen microbes. Effects on metabolism in animal muscle will also influence meat quality. The process of gathering animals on a farm, holding them in yards, often with unfamiliar companions, loading them aboard unfamiliar vehicles and then transporting them, subjects the animals to multiple stressors. These are manifested by substantial increases in the circulating levels of corticosteroids, notably cortisol, and the release of catecholamines such as adrenaline
Animals need to recover quickly after feed and water deprivation in order to maintain the efficiency of production or ensure meat quality.
There is species and individual responses to feed and water deprivation . Sheep do better than cattle. Young animals, deer in winter and stock exposed to feed and water deprivation in the morning.
- Martin Eastwood