3 March 2000

Abattoir biggest influence on cleanliness

ABATTOIR management policy has the biggest influence on Meat Hygiene Service scores for cattle cleanliness, but there are other factors involved.

According to Vet Record, Feb 12, an ADAS survey at five UK abattoirs found that there are six principal factors influencing clean livestock scores, but the abattoir itself is the most significant factor.

One of the reports authors, ADAS Rosemaunds Stephen Webster, says this is for a number of reasons – assessors scoring differently, the effect of local climate and the abattoirs rejection policy on dirty animals.

He adds that where a tough stance is taken by abattoirs, the cattle are generally presented clean.

The study, funded by MAFF and the British Leather Confederation, looked at 675 cattle from 85 different batches and suggests that besides abattoir factors, age, coat length, journey time and distance, clipping and feed also have an effect. "Individual factors are important, but interaction between them is more important," says Dr Webster.

Of these factors, some are individually more important than others, but they are often related. For instance, age, which has a big effect on an animals MHS score, is closely related to how it is fed. This in turn influences how old it will be when slaughtered. The report concludes that silage-based diets with a lower dry matter are associated with dirtier hides and older cattle. It also acknowledges that coat length is significant in hide contamination.

"Long-haired cattle have MHS scores almost 50% higher than cattle with short hair on arrival at the abattoir." This also means that breeds with characteristically long coats have a greater risk of contamination than those without, he adds.

Journey length is another reason for dirty hides and, therefore, distance to slaughter has an effect. This may be linked to there being fewer abattoirs in the UK now, meaning longer journeys. But the effect is not consistent, as some animals on long journeys did not become dirty, says Dr Webster.

He believes future improvements depend on developing a farm husbandry system that will keep cattle clean throughout their lives, which he reckons is a better long-term policy than clipping.

"Generally, bedding more frequently and a drier diet have a beneficial effect," he says. &#42

CLEAN CATTLE

&#8226 Abattoir policy key.

&#8226 Factors closely linked.

&#8226 Better management system?