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Sunday 23 September 2018

Slats or straw? Details of new research on best housing type for beef cattle

Post-slaughter carcass weights, conformation and fat scores, and hide weights were recorded.
Post-slaughter carcass weights, conformation and fat scores, and hide weights were recorded.
FarmIreland Team

FarmIreland Team

Teagasc researchers in Grange, Co. Meath have looked at the effect of space allowance and floor type on finishing beef heifers.

The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of space allowance and floor type on the performance and welfare of finishing beef heifers.

There is currently no legislation surrounding the space allowance and floor type that should be provided to beef cattle during the winter finishing period; however, concerns have been raised regarding housing systems currently in use.

In the experiment some 240 Continental crossbred heifers approx 504kg were grouped by breed, weight and age and randomly assigned to one of four treatments for 105 days.

  • 3.0m2 space allowance per animal on a fully slatted concrete floor
  • 4.5m2 space allowance per animal on a fully slatted concrete floor  
  • 6.0m2 space allowance per animal on a fully slatted concrete floor
  • 6.0m2 space allowance per animal on a straw-bedded floor.

The heifers were offered a total mixed ration ad lib. Dry matter intake was recorded on a pen basis and refusals were weighed back twice weekly.

Heifers were weighed, dirt scored and blood sampled every three weeks. Whole blood was analysed for complete cell counts and serum samples were assayed for metabolite concentrations.

Behaviour was recorded continuously using infrared cameras from day 70 to day 87. Heifers’ hooves were inspected for lesions at the start of the study and again after slaughter.

Post-slaughter carcass weights, conformation and fat scores, and hide weights were recorded.

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Results

  • Heifers housed at 4.5m2 had a greater liveweight average daily gain (ADG) than those on both of the other concrete slat treatments; however, space allowance had no effect on carcass weight.
  • Heifers accommodated on straw had a greater ADG (0.15kg), hide weight, better feed conversion ratio, and had better dirt scores at slaughter than heifers accommodated on concrete slats at 6.0m2.
  • The number of heifers lying at any one time was greater on straw than on concrete slats.
  • Space allowance and floor type had no effect on the number of hoof lesions gained or on any of the haematological or metabolic variables measured.
  • It was concluded that increasing space allowance above 3.0m2 per animal on concrete slats was of no benefit to animal performance.
  • Housing heifers on straw instead of concrete slats had no effect on carcass weight.


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