Rubbermats on slats - the animal welfare version of slats?

Wed 16th Sep, 2020 Frank Zerbe Content Type: Research Innovation

In Intensive beef production in Europe, finishing beef cattle are typically reared in pens with fully slatted (concrete) floors. Concrete flooring is a contributing factor in the development of lameness. Lameness in cattle has major economic and animal welfare implications. The impact of lameness on animal welfare is usually long lasting and associated with substantial pain, resulting in premature culling and adversely affecting performance. Softer flooring like rubber mats may help to avoid lameness in fattening bulls. In Lower Saxony (Germany) rubber mats are required in newbuild husbandry systems for fattening bulls without straw in terms of animal welfare.

Rubber mats on concrete slats can prevent slipping and falling of the animals and thus prevent injuries. Furthermore, it is easier for the animals getting up and laying down with an anti-slip floor. Rubbermats also have a beneficial impact on the carpal joints and thus on animal health and welfare despite reports about overgrown claws.

The effects of rubber mats are controversial in terms of the performance and cleanliness of the animals. There are reports about increased weight gains on rubber coated slats. However, in some studies increased weight gains could only be observed in lighter breeds or in the first part of the fattening phase. 

Unicarve (Italy) has conducted a DEMONSTATION on this theme. To see this video - click here

Literature:

Huesmann A. (2019): Bullenmast auf Gummi - Fluch oder Segen? (Top Agrar)
Lowe D.E. et al. (2019): 
The effect of diet and covering fully slatted concrete floors with rubber strips on the intake, performance and cleanliness of dairy-origin bulls
Magrin L. et al. (2019): 
Health, behaviour and growth performance of Charolais and Limousin bulls fattened on different types of flooring
Murphy V.S. et al. (2018): 
The impact of floor type on lameness and hoof health of dairy origin bulls
Keane M.P. et al. (2018): 
Effect of floor type on performance, lying time and dirt scores of finishing beef cattle: A meta-analysis
Zerbe F. et al. (2008): 
Mastbullenhaltung - Alternativen in der Spaltbodenhaltung 

 

Additional information 

 

 

You can find further information related to the costs and benefits of this innovation by clicking on the link below:

https://hub.bovine-eu.net/lameness-finisher-bulls/costs-and-benefits-of-rubber-mats-on-concrete-floors

Various claw defects with infectious lesions of the corium in finisher bulls kept on concrete floors and mats: The hoof horn is harder and more robust in a dry environment, while the horn becomes softer and more prone to lesions on wet ground.

Lameness and its appearances are often difficult to assess from the outside without a detailed claw examination. From the point of view of the inner shoe of a claw, the damage can be more severe than suspected (Figures: Pododermatitis septica, Fissura ungulae [arrow] and Rusterholz pododermatitis).

 

 

 

(foto: FLI Germany)

This figure shows the use of two different top-on floor qualities (right LOSPA, left PEDIKURA) for bulls on fully slatted concrete. The left rubber version is a product from dairy industry. The surface of the mats contains corundum stones to increase the abrasion of the claws. Using these mats up to 20% of the pen area is recommended, with the feeding area being preferred.

 

 

 

 

(foto: FLI Germany) 

Beef farm (Bavaria, Germany)
pens for fattening bulls with the same both types of mats. Different soiling of the rubber is due to different surface structures of the mats. Concrete floor in front to the feeding table is often used in combination with rubber mats.

 

 

 

 

This innovation has an impact on: 

  1. Socio-economic resilience: The use of rubber mats has economic effects because of the costs for rubber mats. The results for the carcasses are controverse.
  2. Animal health and welfare: The prevention of lameness due to decreased slipping and falling and softer floors has implications for the health and welfare of animals.
  3. Production efficiency and meat quality: Higher weight gain leads to shorter fattening period however it is discussed controversial.
  4. Environmental sustainability: Higher weight gain leads to a better product efficiency and to shorter fattening periods, which can positively affect environmental sustainability.

Keywords: rubbermats; flooring; lameness; claw health; fattening bulls; animal welfare

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Kees de Roest
51 Posts
Thu 18th Nov, 2021

Costs and benefits of the use of of rubber mats on concrete slatted floor in intensive beef finishing farms in Italy, Germany and Poland

Several studies have investigated the effects of different types of flooring on the growth performance and welfare of beef cattle raised in intensive finishing farms (see references).

The evidences coming out from the scientific literature show that slatted floors covered with rubber mats provide better daily weight gains and higher feed conversions compared to beef finishing cattle raised on concrete slatted floors. This solution also affects the health of the cattle, reducing the likelihood of developing lameness and locomotor problems.

Simulation of costs and benefits of rubber mats on fully slatted floor were carried out considering the production costs and productivity indexes of the typical beef finishing farms from Italy; Germany and Poland. According to the results of the trials described by scientific literature (Brscic et al. 2015) a 5% increase of daily weight gain obtained with the same feed intake was assumed as a consequence of the use of rubber mats on concrete slats.

For the purchasing and installation cost of the rubber mats (80 € per square meter) the price actually charged by the companies supplying this type of equipment has been considered. The total investment per head has been calculated considering a space allowance of 3,3 square meters for finishing cattle reaching a final weight of 700 kg and more, and 2,7 square meter for lighter beef cattle (500 kg). Annual depreciation of the investment has been calculated on 8 years period. Concerning the costs per animal for veterinary services and medicines, a reduction of 5% has been assumed due to the reduction in the number of veterinary treatments related to locomotor problems and lameness.

 

The following tables show the costs and benefits of the use of rubber mats in different farm types in Italy, Germany and Poland.


 

 

ITALY – Beef Finishing farm 910 bulls sold per year

Finishing farm productivity before and after installation of rubber mats

 

IT 910

Breed

Charolais – young bulls

Weight at start (kg)

412

Weight at end

717

 

Concrete slats

Rubber slats

Daily weight gain (gr/day)

1.400

1.470

Finishing period (days)

218

208

Bulls sold per year (n.)

910

952

Weight sold (tons l.w.)

652

683

Bulls finished per place (n.)

1,60

1,67

Feed Intake

Unchanged

 

Rubber mats: total cost and depreciation per bull sold

 

IT 910

Cost of rubber mats (material + installation)

80 €/square mt

Space allowance per bull (>700 kg l.w.)

3,3 sq. mt.

Cost of rubber mats per place

€ 264

Depreciation period (years)

8

Annual depreciation

€ 33

Bulls finished per place and year

1,67

Cost of rubber mats per bull sold

€ 19,70

 

Costs per bull and per100 kg lw. sold before and after the innovation

 

Concrete slats

Rubber slats

 

€/head sold

€/100 kw l.w.

€/head sold

€/100 kw l.w.

Non factor costs

1.784

248,8

1.757

245,0

Animal purchase

1.174

163,8

1.174

163,8

Feed*

455

63,4

434

60,5

Machinery (mainten., depr, contractor.)

58

8,1

55

7,7

Fuel and energy

17

2,3

16

2,2

Buildings (mainten. and depr.)

18

2,6

18

2,5

Vet. and medecine

31

4,4

30

4,2

Insurances and taxes

11

1,5

10

1,4

Other inputs

20

2,75

19

2,69

Labour cost

109

15,1

104

14,5

Land cost

30

4,2

Report
0
Kees de Roest
51 Posts
Thu 18th Nov, 2021

Costs and benefits of the use of of rubber mats on concrete slatted floor in intensive beef finishing farms in Italy, Germany and Poland

Several studies have investigated the effects of different types of flooring on the growth performance and welfare of beef cattle raised in intensive finishing farms (see references).

The evidences coming out from the scientific literature show that slatted floors covered with rubber mats provide better daily weight gains and higher feed conversions compared to beef finishing cattle raised on concrete slatted floors. This solution also affects the health of the cattle, reducing the likelihood of developing lameness and locomotor problems.

Simulation of costs and benefits of rubber mats on fully slatted floor were carried out considering the production costs and productivity indexes of the typical beef finishing farms from Italy; Germany and Poland. According to the results of the trials described by scientific literature (Brscic et al. 2015) a 5% increase of daily weight gain obtained with the same feed intake was assumed as a consequence of the use of rubber mats on concrete slats.

For the purchasing and installation cost of the rubber mats (80 € per square meter) the price actually charged by the companies supplying this type of equipment has been considered. The total investment per head has been calculated considering a space allowance of 3,3 square meters for finishing cattle reaching a final weight of 700 kg and more, and 2,7 square meter for lighter beef cattle (500 kg). Annual depreciation of the investment has been calculated on 8 years period. Concerning the costs per animal for veterinary services and medicines, a reduction of 5% has been assumed due to the reduction in the number of veterinary treatments related to locomotor problems and lameness.

 

The following tables show the costs and benefits of the use of rubber mats in different farm types in Italy, Germany and Poland.


 

 

ITALY – Beef Finishing farm 910 bulls sold per year

Finishing farm productivity before and after installation of rubber mats

 

IT 910

Breed

Charolais – young bulls

Weight at start (kg)

412

Weight at end

717

 

Concrete slats

Rubber slats

Daily weight gain (gr/day)

1.400

1.470

Finishing period (days)

218

208

Bulls sold per year (n.)

910

952

Weight sold (tons l.w.)

652

683

Bulls finished per place (n.)

1,60

1,67

Feed Intake

Unchanged

 

Rubber mats: total cost and depreciation per bull sold

 

IT 910

Cost of rubber mats (material + installation)

80 €/square mt

Space allowance per bull (>700 kg l.w.)

3,3 sq. mt.

Cost of rubber mats per place

€ 264

Depreciation period (years)

8

Annual depreciation

€ 33

Bulls finished per place and year

1,67

Cost of rubber mats per bull sold

€ 19,70

 

Costs per bull and per100 kg lw. sold before and after the innovation

 

Concrete slats

Rubber slats

 

€/head sold

€/100 kw l.w.

€/head sold

€/100 kw l.w.

Non factor costs

1.784

248,8

1.757

245,0

Animal purchase

1.174

163,8

1.174

163,8

Feed*

455

63,4

434

60,5

Machinery (mainten., depr, contractor.)

58

8,1

55

7,7

Fuel and energy

17

2,3

16

2,2

Buildings (mainten. and depr.)

18

2,6

18

2,5

Vet. and medecine

31

4,4

30

4,2

Insurances and taxes

11

1,5

10

1,4

Other inputs

20

2,75

19

2,69

Labour cost

109

15,1

104

14,5

Land cost

30

4,2

Report
0