Most sheep sent for slaughter in the UK are sold through livestock markets. This study quantified potentially traumatic events (wool-pull, tail-pull, fall, hit structure, riding, head-butt, other) at two markets (549 groups of sheep, n=12119) and recorded the occurrence of carcase bruising on sheep from these markets. Carcase bruising of sheep sent to the slaughterhouse direct from farms was also recorded.
For every event the body site affected was classified as foreleg, thorax, abdomen, hindleg or back. Handling at the markets was categorised into 4 procedures: unloading (unloading from a vehicle, movement via walkways to a weighbridge, grading, division and marking of groups, placement in a holding pen), pre-sale and sale (movement from the pen through walkways to the auction ring, then to a new pen), post-sale (movement from the pen through walkways to a loading bay area) and loading (loading onto a vehicle via the vehicle tail-gate and a fixed unloading ramp). There was a total of 1324 and 744 events per 1000 sheep at markets A and B, respectively. The unloading of 40 groups of sheep (n=1501) and pre-slaughter handling of 60 groups (n=1085) was observed at the commercial slaughterhouse where the bruising observations were made. The overall occurrence of events at the slaughterhouse was 694 per 1000 sheep.