Eight groups of five farmed red deer were transported by road for three hours, after which they were either slaughtered immediately (TO) or held in lairage for three, six or 18 hours (T3, T6 and T18). Liveweight loss increased with lairage time but hot carcase weight was unaffected. Deer spent much of the initial period in lairage standing stationary in ‘alert’ postures. After eight to 10 hours the proportions of time spent in various postures (standing stationary, moving and lying down) were similar to pre-journey values. None of the blood components associated with dehydration (packed cell volume, osmolality, total protein and sodium) changed significantly with lairage time. Compared with TO deer, plasma creatine kinase activity was significantly decreased in T18 deer. Lairage time had no effect on skin damage, bruising or muscle glycogen content, although liver glycogen content increased with longer lairage time. Although lairage time had a statistically significant effect on muscle pHu (with T6 deer having the lowest values), the differences were small and none of the carcases had a pHu greater than 6.0.
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