Bruising costs the industry millions of dollars. Some abattoirs include bruising information as part of standard carcase feedback. If a carcase is bruised, the AUS-MEAT bruise reporting system is used to show where it is on the carcase and how severe.
Damaged areas of the carcase are trimmed and this can result in significant loss of weight. If the surface fat on valuable primal cuts needs to be trimmed off, it can reduce their eating quality grade as well.
Loss of value from bruising is more serious on finished young cattle compared to cows, because both weight and quality are reduced.
When does bruising occur?
Bruising is caused by injury. This can happen any time from the farm to the final moments at slaughter. It is extremely difficult to judge from the bruise how long before slaughter it was caused.
Typically bruising happens:
- With horned cattle, especially if they are mixed with polled or dehorned cattle
- In yards, while drafting and handling
- Loading and unloading, due to poor handling, bad temperament or yard design
- During transport, if cattle are loaded too tight or loose, or the floor is slippery
- At saleyards or abattoirs when strange cattle are boxed, or drafted on slippery surfaces
The location of bruises on the carcase can give a clue to their cause. For example, a hip bruise is commonly caused by cattle pushing through a gate, and bruises along the back are caused when a beast goes down in the race or truck and others trample on top.
How to reduce bruising
Over the long term you can help reduce bruising by breeding polled cattle, maintaining good handling facilities, training your cattle to be more comfortable with handling and drafting, and improving their temperament by selective breeding.
Before sale, these are the main things you can do to reduce bruising:
- Ensure cattle are polled or dehorned
- Don't mix cattle of widely different weight, age or sex
- Minimise handling by drafting in advance, and travelling direct to the abattoir
- Use yards that are well designed so cattle flow well
- Ensure there are no projecting objects such as rails, bolts or gate catches
- Handle cattle quietly, without dogs and electric prodders
- Avoid boxing strange cattle in confined places such as yards or trucks
- Ensure trucks have a non-slip floor and no projections
- Minimise time on the trucks, and eliminate double handling if possible
- Use a carrier with training or accreditation in low-stress handling
- If cattle go down, get them up immediately and allow them space
The AUS-MEAT Beef and Veal Language brochure shows how location and severity of beef bruises are reported on the feedback sheet.
A Queensland survey of more than 30,000 slaughterings reported bruising losses and studied some of the factors affecting bruising
Pen loading density during transport affects the amount of bruising that occurs. The impact was studied in this experiment.