Beef cattle welfare and health status are influenced by housing and management systems. The present study aimed to assess the welfare and health status in the first 15 days after arrival of Limousine bulls imported from France and fattened in a commercial fattening unit in Italy. A total of 264 bulls were included in the study. Welfare, biosecurity, and major hazard and warning system were assessed on days 2 (T1) and 15 (T2) after arrival to the unit. At T1 and T2 an inspective clinical examination was performed on all bulls. At T1 and T2 blood samples were collected from 88 bulls for haematological analysis. Both at T1 and T2, the welfare, biosecurity, and major hazards and warning systems were classified with a general score of medium but with a decrease on animal-based measurements in T2. At T1 and T2 the clinical examination revealed a significant increase (p-value≤0.05) of skin lesions and lameness in T2. A high incidence of respiratory disease was noticed in both assessed times. Leucocytes and all differentials count, and platelets were significantly increased (p-value≤0.05) at T2, while the fibrinogen was significantly decreased. The haematological changes suggest that the bulls were under higher stress in T2 when compared with T1 linked with a difficult adaptation response to the fattening unit. A multi-factorial approach that integrates the indicators of the checklist and the clinical and haematological findings of animals can be a useful method to deepen the assessment of welfare in beef cattle.
Research in Veterinary Science, Volume 158, May 2023,