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Effect of preslaughter experience on behaviour, plasma cortisol and muscle pH in farmed red deer
  1. RF Smith and
  2. H Dobson
  1. University of Liverpool, Department of Veterinary Clinical Science, Neston, South Wirral.


Three groups of farmed red deer were shot in the field, three groups were slaughtered on the farm and three groups were transported to commercial slaughterhouses. The behaviour of the animals was observed and peripheral plasma cortisol concentrations were measured immediately after slaughter and neck muscle pH was measured 24 hours after slaughter. The deer could be handled and herded without agitation when only one unhindered direction was open to them and nothing in the environment caused alarm. Shallow angled loading ramps were preferable. Deer shot in the field and deer penned without handling had low average plasma cortisol concentrations (less than 7 ng/ml) and a muscle pH less than 5.74 whereas deer which had been herded on the farm, or transported to a slaughterhouse, had high cortisol concentrations (greater than 20 ng/ml) and a muscle pH above 5.74. However, only four of 66 male deer transported to a slaughterhouse had a muscle pH above 6.0, the pH associated with dark cutting meat in red deer.

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