November 18, 2021

Interpretive Summary: The effect of vitamin C on long-haul transport stress in beef steer calves

Interpretive Summary: The effect of vitamin C on long-haul transport stress in beef steer calves

By: Anne Kamiya, MS

Long-haul transport may occur at several points during the lifespan of feedlot cattle and is a source of undesirable stress on the wellbeing of these animals. Performance can subsequently suffer and lead to reduced health and productivity. Ways to minimize the physiological impacts of transportation stress on cattle is therefore a necessary area of study. In this recent Journal of Animal Science article, researchers evaluated how vitamin C impacted quantifiable stress markers (such as inflammation, muscle fatigue and performance) in beef steer calves. 

A total of 132 Angus-cross steers were given an intramuscular (IM) injection of either vitamin C or normal saline control two hours prior to transportation. Steers traveled for either 8 hours or 18 hours in a commercial livestock trailer. Weight was measured on day 5 before transport and the day of transport. Weight, blood, average daily gain (ADG), feed efficiency (gain to feed ratio) and dry matter intake (DMI) were then monitored at intervals for another 55 days.

The results of this study suggest that long-haul transport of beef steer calves increases inflammatory markers and reduces performance. Steers transported for 18 hours had increased inflammation and reduced performance compared to steers transported for 8 hours. As an antioxidant, IM injection of vitamin C did increase plasma ascorbate concentration and had a positive benefit on antioxidant capacity of cattle but did not significantly improve performance parameters post-transit.  It is possible that higher or more frequent doses of vitamin C may be needed or that vitamin C used in conjunction with other antioxidants may be more beneficial. 

Overall, the results of this study suggest vitamin C has the potential to benefit the health of beef steer calves but its usefulness in increasing performance and reducing inflammation in long-haul transport needs further investigation.  

The original article, The effect of injectable vitamin C and road transit duration on inflammation, muscle fatigue, and performance in pre-conditioned beef steer calves, is now viewable in the Journal of Animal Science.