• • • Can floor type and animal space affect cattle performance indoors?
Finishing cattle over the winter is a costly enterprise and average daily gains (ADG) made over this period may be the difference between making a profit or loss. In addition, feeding animals for the shortest period possible – and achieving the correct finish – will leave more money in the farmers’ pocket. Farmers buying winter feed need to look out for a number of ingredients and nutritive values. The single most important determinant of live weight gain in finishing cattle is energy. Farmers should also pay careful consideration to the size of the shed available, as overcrowding can lead to a significant reduction in animal performance.
Research carried out by Teagasc, in Grange, Co. Meath last year, indicated the effect of floor type and space allowance on the performance and welfare of finishing beef heifers. Post-trial results indicate that the heifers housed on straw bedding (6m²/head) had a higher ADG of 0.15kg than those housed on concrete slats at 6m²/head. They had higher hide weights, better feed conversion ratios (FCR) and dirt scores. In addition, the number of heifers lying – at any one time – was higher on straw than on the concrete slats. However, the carcass weight difference between the two was not significant.