26 November 1999

24-hour maximum?

NEW research results suggest that the maximum journey time when transporting cattle should be 24 hours rather than the current 31 hours.

Bristol vet school researcher Toby Knowles says the study, reported in Vet Record, was designed to look at the physiological and behavioural effects of transporting cattle for 14-31 hours, including a rest and drink stop.

"Until 1997, the maximum legal journey time in the UK was 15 hours. But this was raised to 31 hours – including one hour rest with water after 14 hours – to bring it in line with European Union rules.

"MAFF commissioned this research shortly after EU legislation was implemented to find out how cattle cope with longer journeys."

He discovered that although animals coped reasonably well with long distance travel, many began to lie down after 20 hours, indicating general tiredness and unhappiness.

"Cattle are heavy animals and dont like lying down while they are being transported. When they lie down during transport, they are bounced around in moving vehicles, which creates pressure points and bruising. They also risk being crushed or trodden on."

Dr Knowles would like to see a 24-hour maximum journey time imposed but says that this is unlikely to affect the UK due to its relatively small size and lack of live cattle exports.