Tips for reducing shrink

Effect On Incoming Cattle: The weight loss of cattle during transport is commonly called shrink. There are two types of shrink. One is exudative, which is the loss of urine and feces. The second type of shrink is tissue loss. Tissue loss is the loss of fluid from the cells and cattle require more time to regain this type of shrink. The following are five factors that affect amount of shrink:

1. Time
2. Distance
3. Age
4. Sex
5. Type-Condition.

The most critical factor is time in transit. Therefore, truckers should deliver cattle as soon as possible. The following are some estimates for shrink with respect to time (Fox et al., 1985):

Hours in
moving truck
% shrinkDays required to
recover pay weight

Distance is included as a factor because some people think in terms of distance rather than time. One estimate is a 3% shrink for the first 100 miles and .5% to 1% for each additional 100 miles.

Age, sex, and type-condition are interrelated because the real factor is fat composition of the animal. The fatter the cattle are, the less shrink encountered. This is because fat contains less water than muscle. Older cattle tend to have more fat than younger animals. Heifers are usually fatter than steers of the same age. Larger frame cattle have a higher lean to fat ratio than medium frame cattle of the same age. Of course health of the cattle will also have an effect.

Preventing Shrink: You may not be able to prevent shrink in cattle that you purchase some distance from your feedlot but the following practices may reduce the amount of shrink and minimize the accompanying stress (Brownson, 1973):

  1. Avoid loading and moving cattle during inclement weather.
  2. Insure careful and nonabusive handling is practiced at loading and unloading.
  3. Inform the cattle buyer or trucker that the cattle should arrive as soon as possible after loading.
  4. Make sure trucks and all corral equipment are in good working order.
  5. Provide adequate protection during inclement weather while in transit.
  6. Dry feeds are more desirable than wet feeds for cattle prior to shipping.
  7. Provide proper space allocation to each animal.

Truck Space Requirements For Calves

Average weightNumber of calves per running foot
of truck floor space
(92 inch truck width)
200 lbs.2.2
300 lbs.1.6
400 lbs.1.2
450 lbs. 1.1

Grandin, 1988

Source: Ohio State University Extension