Introduction to the challenge addressed
Sourcing large numbers and mixing young bulls prior to final feeding can prove to be very challenging particularly in terms of animal health and disease outbreaks such as pneumonia and other viruses.
This bull beef fattening unit in Ireland uses a clear sourcing and animal health programme to reduce health and welfare issues in the fattening of young bulls. Kieran Dooley on his farm in Boora, Co Offaly, Ireland, along with his brother Brian finish ca. 1,000 young bulls per year, mainly Charolais weanlings, which are purchased from many suckler herds. They feed whole crop wheat/barley/maize using the Keenan Pace feeder system.
Description of the Good Practice
With this good practice the farmer sources the bull weanlings (usually 7 to 13 months of age) from a suckler farmer and makes an arrangement for the animals to remain on the farm of origin for a period of a further 3 weeks. The finisher farmer along with the suckler farmer treats the animals with the first course of vaccinations (usually treatments for IBR, RSV and PI3). This reduces any transport stress on the bulls at this important time when they are getting their first vaccination treatments. After 3 weeks, the suckler farmer then transports the animals to the finishing unit, where they are weighted, which is used to determine payment, and at this point they will receive their second vaccinations and any other necessary animal health treatments. As a result of this process, comrade animals stay together, which is important to reduce stress and animals are not removed again from the finishing unit they are ready for final sale.
Impact on farm performance
The benefits of this good practice are reduced animal health issues, reduced stress on the bulls from limited handling and no mixing all contributing to improved animal health and welfare. In addition, the bulls thrive better improving performance efficiency and meat quality. Reduced disease problems and lower veterinary medicine costs improve the socio-economic resilience on the farm.
The bottle neck is trying to locate suitable suckler farmers to partner with in the programme.
Key take home message; Low costs simple and practical animal health and welfare programmes are very effective especially on young bull finishing farms.
“We can significantly reduce stress and disease on our purchased-in weanlings by operating a programme of vaccination on the farm of origin 3 weeks before they arrive on our finishing unit,” Kieran Dooley Beef farmer Co Offaly.