Characterizing the literature surrounding transportation of young dairy calves: A scoping review

H. M. Goetz, C. B. Winder, J. H.C. Costa, K. C. Creutzinger, T. Uyama, D. F. Kelton, J. Dunn, D. L. Renaud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Transportation is a stressful event for cattle, as it may involve various handling practices, commingling, deprivation of food and water, and fluctuating temperatures. Calves are particularly susceptible to these stressors because their physiological and immune systems are still developing. There has been no formal synthesis of the scientific literature evaluating the effect of transportation on young dairy calf health and performance; the aim of this scoping review is to describe and characterize this body of work. We targeted both descriptive and analytic studies examining transport of calves, including listing how the effect of transport has been evaluated. Eight databases were searched for relevant articles with eligible studies being primary research articles investigating transportation of calves of either sex who were younger than 60 d of age or weighed less than 100 kg. Two reviewers independently screened the title and abstracts of 6,859 articles with 361 potentially relevant articles screened at full text. Of these, 46 were relevant and had data extracted. Articles reporting study location were conducted in the United States (n = 5), Australia (n = 3), Japan (n = 3), and New Zealand (n = 3). Common transport-related variables evaluated included time in transit (n = 13), distance of transportation (n = 8), vehicle-related factors (n = 8), and age at time of transportation (n = 4). Outcome measures varied greatly, including blood parameters (n = 28), health assessments (n = 20), weight (n = 17), behavioral metrics (n = 14), mortality (n = 7), feed intake following transportation (n = 4), salivary cortisol concentrations (n = 3), morbidity (n = 3), and isolation of Salmonella Dublin in fecal samples (n = 2). Outcome parameters were measured during transport or ranged from immediately after to one year following transportation. As the transport-related risk factors and outcomes measured assessed varied widely between studies, future quantitative synthesis (e.g., meta-analysis) in this area may be limited. Several knowledge gaps were identified, including methods to prepare calves for transportation, such as improving nutrition, administering medication, or transporting calves at an older age or weight. Further research could also focus on consistent and clear reporting of key items related to study conduct and analysis, as well as the development of a core outcome set for calf transport studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1555-1572
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The first author was supported by Dairy Farmers of Canada (Ottawa, ON, Canada), Veal Farmers of Ontario (Guelph, ON, Canada), and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs through the OMAFRA Alliance program (Guelph, ON, Canada). The authors have not stated any conflicts of interest.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Dairy Science Association


  • bull calf
  • veal industry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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