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The effect of diet and covering fully slatted concrete floors with rubber strips on the intake, performance and cleanliness of dairy-origin bulls

  • D. E. Lowe (a1), F. O. Lively (a1) and A. W. Gordon (a2)

Abstract

Fully slatted concrete floors are prevalent in beef cattle housing. However, concerns have been raised about welfare of cattle accommodated on slats. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of diet and floor type on the intake, performance and cleanliness of dairy-origin bulls from a mean age of 8 months to slaughter at 15.5 months old. Forty-eight bulls, which had a mean initial live weight of 212 kg (SD = 23.7), were allocated one of four treatments which consisted of two floors and two diets, arranged in a 2×2 factorial design. The floors evaluated were a fully slatted concrete floor and a fully slatted concrete floor covered with rubber; while the diets offered were either a high concentrate diet or a grass silage-based diet supplemented with concentrates. Over the entire experimental period, floor type had no significant effect on intake. Interestingly, however, when bulls were offered concentrates ad libitum, those accommodated on rubber covered slats consumed more concentrates than those accommodated on concrete slats. No effect of floor type on intake was noted when bulls were offered the grass silage supplemented with concentrate diet. There were no significant interactions between floor and diet on animal performance. Animals accommodated on rubber covered slats had a significantly better performance than those accommodated on concrete slats, as assessed by live weight at slaughter and live weight gain/day (P < 0.01) and estimated carcass gain/day (P < 0.05). The diet offered had no significant effect on animal performance. Bulls accommodated on rubber covered slats were significantly cleaner than those accommodated on concrete slats on day 97 (P < 0.001), but there was no significant effect of floor type when measured at other time points in the experiment. It is concluded from this study that diet has an important role to play in assessing bulls’ responses in performance to the effect of covering concrete slatted floors with rubber. Bulls offered a high concentrate diet had a higher concentrate intake, higher performance but a similar feed conversion ratio (FCR) when accommodated on rubber covered slats compared to those accommodated on fully concrete slatted floors. Animals offered this intensive diet were less efficient (as measured by a higher FCR) than those offered a supplemented grass silage-based diet.

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