Humane management of captive muskoxen
Agriculture Canada has supervised muskoxen harvests in the Canadian Arctic since 1985. In early 1991 a management system was empolyed that involved penning of large herds (up to 200 head) and feeding in confinement for several days before slaughter. A total of 409 head were slaughtered during two seperate operations. Their behavior was observed, carcasses were examined post-mortem, and specimens were collected for analysis. The purpose of the study was to determine if maintaining wild muskoxen in captivity, with the provision of feed, caused excessive stress on the muskoxen or deleteriously affected meat quality. The good quality grass hay provided was readily accepted, the muskoxen generally did not escape the simple enclosure, there was no evidence of increased aggression due to confinement, and no apparent digestive upset. Blood analysis (cortisol), meat quality tests (pH, shear values), and first hand observation indicated no detectable increase in stress due to confinement and no loss of meat quality.
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