Manage beef housing to minimise stress

Management of cattle moving from grazing to housing will have to be spot-on this year to avoid health- and stress-related growth checks, according to EBLEX beef scientist Mary Vickers.

“With variable costs predicted to be 10-20% higher over the coming winter as a result of increased feed, forage and bedding costs, maintaining optimum growth rates and feed conversion efficiencies in housed stock will be particularly crucial.

“Yet even light infections of pneumonia are know to reduce daily liveweight gains significantly, as are growth checks from nutritional or environmental stress,” explains Dr Vickers.

“Cattle going onto an indoor finishing diet will benefit from the progressive introduction of supplementary feed at grass to maintain growth rates as grass growth fall away as well as to acclimatise their rumens to the finishing ration.

“In addition to gradual dietary change, procedures such as castration, weaning, worming and vaccination should be undertaken one at a time whenever possible to avoid the mulitple stresses than can precipitate health problems and unncecessary growth checks.”

Also, careful grouping of animals by size, sex and origin, and correct stocking rates for the accomodation and bedding available will do much to reduce social stresses at housing as well as pneumonia risk, adds Dr Vickers.