Background:The study objective was to investigate the effect of bare concrete slats (Control), two types of mats [(Easyfix mats (mat 1) and Irish Custom Extruder mats (mat 2)] fitted on top of concrete slats, and wood-chip to simulate deep bedding (wood-chip placed on top of a plastic membrane overlying the concrete slats) on performance, physiological and behavioral responses of finishing beef steers. One-hundred and forty-four finishing steers (503 kg; standard deviation 51.8 kg) were randomly assigned according to their breed (124 Continental cross and 20 Holstein–Friesian) and body weight to one of four treatments for 148 days. All steers were subjected to the same weighing, blood sampling (jugular venipuncture), dirt and hoof scoring pre study (day 0) and on days 23, 45, 65, 86, 107, 128 and 148 of the study. Cameras were fitted over each pen for 72 h recording over five periods and subsequent 10 min sampling scans were analysed.Results: Live weight gain and carcass characteristics were similar among treatments. The number of lesions on the hooves of the animals was greater (P < 0.05) on mats 1 and 2 and wood-chip treatments compared with the animals on the slats. Dirt scores were similar for the mat and slat treatments while the wood-chip treatment had greater dirt scores. Animals housed on either slats or wood-chip had similar lying times. The percent of animals lying was greater for animals housed on mat 1 and mat 2 compared with those housed on concrete slats and wood chips. Physiological variables showed no significant difference among treatments.Conclusions: In this exploratory study, the performance or welfare of steers was not adversely affected by slats, differing mat types or wood-chip as underfoot material.
Animal & Bioscience
Teagasc publications in Biomed Central