Plasma sodium concentrations, packed cell volume, total plasma protein concentration and dermal skinfold thickness were used to assess the state of hydration of 113 transported calves before and after lairage and in 30 control calves on the farm of origin. Skin thickness increased significantly (P less than 0.05) and total protein increased slightly during transport and decreased during lairage. These changes suggest that transport may cause dehydration and lairage may help in recovery. Plasma potassium concentration decreased during transport, but the effect was inversely related to the distance travelled, and the concentration increased during lairage. These changes are consistent with recovery from initially high cortisol levels at loading. The resting behaviour of 150 transported calves was recorded hourly for six hours. More time was spent resting and sleeping by the transported calves than has been reported for non-transported calves and more still by small transported calves, suggesting that transport is exhausting, that lairage helps recovery and that small calves are more adversely affected. During lairage the numbers of calves asleep decreased to values reported for normal calves, suggesting that 10 hours lairage was adequate. However, small calves did not return to their normal rest patterns within the observation period.
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