Introduction to the challenge addressed.
Handling young bulls on farms can prove to be very challenging in terms of safety for the farmer, stress on the livestock and time consuming from a labour perspective. The use of a modern animal welfare friendly assembly yard and cattle chute along with an individual weighing system has reduced labour input, increased safety and reduced stress on the handling of young bulls for feeding for beef finisher Kieran Dooley on his farm in Boora, Co Offaly, Ireland. Kieran along with his brother finish c 1,000 young bulls pa, mainly Charolais weanlings from the suckler herd. They feed whole crop wheat/barley/maize using the Keenan Pace feeder system.
Description of the Good Practice
Buying in and handling young bulls as they enter a feed unit can prove extremely challenging in terms of assembly, safety and animal welfare, in addition to the animal health challenges. This farmer erected a comprehensive assembly yard and cattle chute, which has proved to be a great success in improving the handling of young bulls. The system is designed in a fashion that avoids stress on the animals and makes it easier for the operator. All of the pens and chute are constructed in a curved rounded design to assist easier movement for the animals. There are no corners or angle edges for animals to encounter. Gates are designed to allow the animals enter, move and exit in a smoot fashion and are also easy to operate for the farmer.
Impact on farm performance.
While the initial capital cost was high, there has been a very good return on investment in terms of the benefits which include; the efficient system has reduced labour input on the farm and allowed for handling large volumes of animals in shorter time frames ( 50 animals in 30 minutes) – an important socio-economic benefit, reduced stress on the animals and reduced animal health and welfare issues – a major animal health and welfare benefit as well as a meat quality benefit, and increased safety for the farmer.
The main bottleneck with the system was the initial capital cost.
Key take home messages; A strategic investment will pay dividends in the longer term. Investments in labour saving and animal welfare are worthwhile.
“Good animal handling facilities are essential for farm safety, especially dealing with young bulls. Our system allows 2 people safely handle up to 50 animals in just 30 minutes, which is a significant labour cost saving,” Kieran Dooley beef farmer Co Offaly.