In two experiments the growth, body composition and behaviour of steers and heifers kept in a building with natural day length only (average 9·7 h/day, treatment N) were compared with similar groups of animals kept in identical housing with the day length artificially extended to 16 h/day, (treatment L). The effects were recorded for 126 days in steers and 180 days in heifers, with both groups of animals being slaughtered in March when the two experiments ended. There were no effects over the entire experiment on the growth rate or food intake of either steers or heifers. The growth of the steers was reduced in the first 2 weeks after the lights were switched on but they gained more weight to compensate over the next 8 weeks. Over the whole experiment there was no treatment effect on food conversion ratio for either steers or heifers but it was reduced for steers on treatment L over the first 10 weeks. Steers in treatment N produced fatter carcasses than those on treatment L. Ultrasonic scanning of the heifers showed that those on treatment N deposited more fatty tissue between autumn and winter and less between winter and spring compared with those on treatment L.
The behaviour of steers on treatment L did not vary over the experiment but steers on treatment N changed their behaviour with season. They slept for more time in winter and less in spring. Over the whole experiment steers on treatment L slept less and spent more time lying ruminating than those on treatment N but the total time spent lying was not affected by treatment. In contrast, the heifers on treatment L lay down for longer than those on treatment N, suggesting that the effect of supplementary light on lying time, which has been observed previously with dairy cows, is confined to female cattle. Heifers on treatment L started mounting each other earlier than heifers on treatment N and, like the steers, they spent less time sleeping It is concluded that extending the photoperiod for cattle in winter reduced body fatness in both steers and heifers and increased the time heifers spend lying down but that there were no major effects on growth rate or food intake.