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Assessing cubicle dimensions for finishing bulls based on animal behaviour and cleanliness

  • L. Gygax (a1), H. Schulze Westerath (a1), J. Kuhlicke (a1), B. Wechsler (a1) and C. Mayer (a2)...

Abstract

Finishing bulls need increasingly large cubicles throughout their growth, and optimal cubicle dimensions may differ from those used for dairy cows. The space requirements of finishing bulls was investigated by observing standing-up and lying-down behaviour, lying duration and number of lying bouts, as well as the cleanliness of cubicles and animals before and after increasing cubicle size at four different points in time. Lying area in the cubicles measured 120 × 70 cm at the start and 185 × 110 cm at the end of the finishing period (approx. at 160 and 550 kg, respectively). Twenty animals kept in four groups were observed at weights of approximately 220, 330, 380 and 500 kg before and after cubicle dimensions were increased. The proportion of standing-up events with more than one head lunge decreased with enlargement of the cubicles (P = 0·01). As cubicle size increased, bulls hit the partition rails less on standing up, except at 220 kg weight where the pattern was inverted (interaction: P = 0·001). Partitions were also hit less on lying down as cubicle size increased, except at 220 kg weight with an inverse pattern (interaction: P = 0·01). The number of exploratory head sweeps before lying down did not change with cubicle enlargement (P > 0·5). Bulls slipped more often with cubicle enlargement, except at 380 kg where the difference was inverted (interaction: P = 0·03). They never fell and never turned around in the cubicles. In general, both animals and cubicles were very clean. On average, lying duration decreased (P < 0·01) while the number of lying bouts tended to increase (P = 0·052) with enlargement of the cubicles but the absolute differences were small. Consequently at each point in time, the smaller cubicles still seemed to provide sufficient lying space for the bulls. If the impacts with the partitions were minor and did not represent a serious welfare concern, as suggested by qualitative observations, the cubicle dimensions used could be considered suitable for housing the type of finishing bulls used in this study.

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Keywords

Assessing cubicle dimensions for finishing bulls based on animal behaviour and cleanliness

  • L. Gygax (a1), H. Schulze Westerath (a1), J. Kuhlicke (a1), B. Wechsler (a1) and C. Mayer (a2)...

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