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