High on-farm losses (dead, euthanased and early culled animals) on beef finisher farms are associated with lower financial returns. Losses may range from 1-3%. Housing systems other than fully slatted pens reduce mortality. Most relevant factors able to reduce on-farm losses on beef finisher farms are:

1. buy calves from one single farm

2. try to reduce the number of suppliers of newly bought-in animals by selecting suckler herds of bigger size capable of providing an entire batch of animals in a single delivery

3. use a dedicated quarantine area for animals at arrival

4. prepare a health plan for metaphylaxis and disease treatment

5. apply exact rations in line with cattle requirements and availability of feed ingredients

6. avoid mixing of animals before transportation, as transport of cattle can lead to increase susceptibility to disease

The main farm challenge is that mortality of bulls and heifers on beef finisher farms can be a significant problem that impairs the profitability of the farm. In other to know the factors that are able to redcue this on-farm losses a large range of factors have been investigated with a potential impact on mortality on 63 beef finisher farms in Austria, Germany and Italy.  In this way the main factors impacting mortality of beef cattle on beef finisher farms have been identified.

A major bottlenech was that,  due to the relatively small data set, this research however was not able to clearly identify critical threshold values for specific chemical constituents and/or physical fractions of the Total Mixed Ration (TMR). Early research has shown that metabolic disorders due to unbalanced feeding schemes may account for 42% of beef cattle mortality. Common diets for finishing beef cattle are rich in concentrates to promote high daily gains.  EFSA suggests the provision of at least 15% of physically effective roughage to avoid sub-acute acidosis, bloat and other digestive disorder that may increase mortality.

The major lesson learned from this research innovation is the creation of a high awareness of beef finisher farmers to take account of the factors that potentially reduce mortality rates of beef cattle on their farms. This awareness can be triggered by beef cattle farmers’ organisations, consultants and public animal health services.


More detailed information about the costs and benefits of this innovation can be found by clicking on the following link:




More detailed information about this research can be found in: 

Risk factors associated with beef cattle losses on intensive farms in Austria, Germany and Italy

M. Bršic,*, M.K. Kirchner, U. Knierim, B. Contiero, F. Gottardo, C. Winckler G. Cozzi

The Veterinary Journal 239 (2018) 48-53

You can download the full paper at:


Authors: Kees de Roest and Claudio Montanari - CRPA