2 April 1999

Slatted floors okay

HOUSING beef cattle on slatted floors does not compromise welfare or performance.

Trial work in Northern Ireland found no significant effect of floor type on liveweight or carcass gains and composition when beef cattle were housed on either fully slatted floors, full slats covered with perforated rubber mats, or solid floors with straw.

Beef scientist Denise Lowe, from the Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland at Hillsborough, said floor type did not affect time spent lying, or aggressive or repetitive behaviour.

In the trial, 60 Continental cross steers were assigned to one of three floor types, with five animals in each treatment.

Daily feed intake, liveweight and carcass gain were recorded for an average of 139 days and each animal observed directly once a week with all behaviour recorded continuously. Each pen of animals was also recorded on video for a 72 hour period every fortnight.

All cattle were scored for dirtiness, and at slaughter hearts scored for haemorrhaging, while carcass composition and meat quality were also assessed.

Cattle housed on slats were dirtier than those on straw when this was replaced at the rate of 5.7kg/head/day, she told delegates.

Floor type had no effect on liveweight gain through to carcass composition, meat quality, or on the amount of haemorrhaging of the heart, aggression or repetitive behaviour, which would all indicate stress, said Dr Lowe.

"Cattle on straw did, however, get up and down more often than those on slats."

Year two of the trial will attempt to find out why cattle on slats get up less frequently.