Slatted Buildings for Housing Beef Cattle
Slatted buildings with concrete flooring are the predominant choice for housing beef livestock in Ireland, UK, Northern Ireland and Europe during the winter months.
Due to the seasonality of grass, the preferred production system for rearing and finishing beef cattle consists of an 8 month grazing season, followed by a 4/5 months winter housing period. This winter period can vary, weather-depending, and is typical for the housing of bullocks and heifers, whereas bulls can be housed for longer periods because pasture management can prove difficult.
Concrete slatted floors are the most widely used winter housing system in Northern Ireland, UK, Ireland and Europe. Advantages of this system include lower space demands, low labour costs, efficient manure management and relatively clean animals.
Standing on concrete for prolonged periods is recognised as a considerable risk factor for lameness. As well as this, it causes fewer lying bouts, more interrupted lying down movements and the surface can become quite slippy. Concrete slats are a less favoured lying area for growing cattle in comparison with rubber covered slats. Hard concrete surfaces cause compression lesions and leg diseases such as carpal bursitis in growing cattle.
Concrete also leads to the prevalence of leg and claw disorders. Severe sole lesions and white line haemorrhages are often found in bulls kept on concrete over winter. In extreme cases this leads to a depressed appetite, a reduction in feed intake and a reduced average daily weight gain.
In an industry that is accustomed to extremely tight margins, farmers cannot sustain income losses to poor thrive, lameness, reduced finishing weights and extended housing period.
Beef finishers estimate that using rubber on concrete slats nets an extra €50 per animal over the winter period. With the cost of rubber at approx. €55 per square meter, and at a stocking rate of 2.2 square meters per animal, the cost per animal is approximately €121. As an investment, the farmer will have payback within 2.4 years.
Given that this is a relatively quick payback period, progressive farmers will continue to install EASYFIX Slat Rubber in their slatted houses