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Out-wintering pads for finishing beef cattle: animal production and welfare



Out-wintering pads for finishing beef cattle: animal production and welfare



Animal Science 75(3): 447-458



The objective of this experiment was to evaluate the performance and well being of animals accommodated outdoors over the winter period on out-wintering pads (OWPs), relative to animals housed indoors in conventional slatted floor sheds. One hundred and twenty-six steers were assigned at random to one of seven treatments. The first six treatments were accommodated on OWPs. These six treatments were arranged in a three (6, 12 and 18 m2 per head space allowance) by two (wind sheltered or exposed) factorial design. A seventh treatment group (control) was housed indoors in a slatted-floor shed at a space allowance of 3 m2 per head. All animals were offered silage ad libitum and 5 kg concentrate per day. All animals were slaughtered at the end of the 151 day experiment. Animal production and indices (climatic energy demand (CED), behaviour, cleanliness, hoof condition and immune function) of animal welfare were evaluated. There was no significant effect of stocking density outdoors or sheltering on live-weight gain, carcass gain, fat score, fat score per 100 kg carcass, kidney plus channel fat (KCF) as a proportion of carcass, carcass conformation score, killing-out proportion, food intake or food efficiency. Relative to animals housed indoors on slats, animals accommodated outdoors on OWPs had higher daily live-weight gain (P < 0.001), carcass gain (P < 0.05), and food intake (P < 0.05). However, animals on the OWPs had less KCF per kg carcass and lower fat scores per 100 kg carcass. There was no effect of shelter on the CED of animals out-wintered, which was higher (P < 0.001) than their counterparts wintered indoors on slats. Animals housed on slats were cleaner than animals housed at 6 or 12 m2 per head (P < 0.05) but not 18 m2per head. There was no effect of treatment on physiological measures. Animals confined on the OWP with or without shelter, had a greater number of lying bouts per 24 h (P < 0.076), had a greater synchronized lying frequency (P < 0.082) and displayed less hesitation prior to lying when compared with animals housed on slats. Indoor animals had more white line disease (P < 0.01) and under-run (P < 0.001) on their front hoof, when compared with outdoor animals. Animals accommodated outdoors at 18 m2per head had more (P < 0.05) claw erosion while the indoor animals had a greater (P < 0.001) degree of under-run present on their hind hoof. There was no evidence to suggest that out-wintering compromised animal welfare. Further studies are required to determine the reason for the increased carcass growth and leanness of the cattle on the OWPs.

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Accession: 003872963

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DOI: 10.1017/s1357729800053212


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