Concrete slatted floors (CSF) are the predominant housing system used for finishing beef cattle in European countries (SCAHAW, 2001). Due to high construction costs it is desirable to operate this housing system with relatively low space allowances per animal; however, animal live weight varies between studies, therefore it is difficult to conclude, from the literature, what space allowance (m2 per animal) finishing beef cattle should be provided with. One way of possibly determining the optimal space for finishing cattle, irrespective of their weight, is through the use of allometric equations. Instead of allocating a fixed space allowance per animal, allometric equations use the progressing weight of an animal to estimate the space that they require during housing.The objectives of the study were to determine whether allometric equations are suitable for estimating the space requirements of finishing beef cattle housed on concrete slatted floors (CSF) and to examine the effect of fixed and dynamic space allowances on the performance and welfare of these cattle.
Due to high construction costs it is desirable to operate housing system for beef cattle with relatively low space allowances per animal; however, animal live weight varies between studies, therefore it is difficult to conclude, from the literature, what space allowance (m2 per animal) finishing beef cattle should be provided with.
The study found that 2.0 m2 per animal (k-value of 0.027) is an insufficient space allowance for finishing continental crossbred beef steers. It is also concluded that using k-values to estimate the space cattle require is more appropriate than providing them with a certain space (m2) per animal. The results demonstrated that the equation y = 0.033w0.667 is sufficient for estimating the space requirements of finishing beef cattle on CSF
It should be stressed that allometric approaches are limited by the requirement to weight periodically. Thus, fixed allowances are more practical.
- Carcass weight of steers housed at 2.0 m2 was lower (P < 0.05) than all other treatments. Steers housed at 2.5 m2 had lower carcass weights (P < 0.05) than those with accommodated at E1(y = 0.033w0.667) and E2 (y = 0.048w0.667), whereas the carcass weight of steers accommodated at 3.0 m2 was intermediate
- Carcass fat scores and hide weights were lower (P < 0.05) in steers accommodated at 2.0 m2 than those housed at E2 with other treatments being intermediate.
- The number of steers lying at any one time and the number of steers observed grooming themselves was lower (P < 0.05) at 2.0 m2 than any other treatment.
The impact of this innovation on socio-economic resilience is the following:
Slaughter weight and ADG were greatest, and FCR was the best, for steers accommodated at E2 (P < 0.05); steers accommodated at 2.5 m2 were intermediate (P > 0.05) to those accommodated at 2.0 m2 and both 3.0 m2 and E1, whereas steers accommodated at 3.0 m2 and E1 were intermediate (P > 0.05) to 2.5 m2 and E2. In the current study, using allometric equations to determine the space requirements of cattle required that pen size had to be increased in line with body weight gain. In a commercial setting, projecting the potential growth rate of cattle and providing younger animals with sufficient space for their estimated final weight may be a more attainable method of using allometric principles. Removing an animal in a commercial setting is not realistic but it could be in a practical “drafting for slaughter” situation.
The impact on animal health and welfare is that the number of steers lying at any one time and the number of steers observed grooming themselves was lower (P < 0.05) at 2.0 m2 than any other treatment. Dirt scores, hoof lesion number, and hematological measurements were not affected by treatment.
Author: Paul Crosson - TEAGASC