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Home Beef VIDEO: Comparing live weight gain on slat mats, concrete and straw
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VIDEO: Comparing live weight gain on slat mats, concrete and straw

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The EASYFIX SR slat rubber system, which is designed to improve animal comfort, welfare, and performance, is proving to be a game-changer for a west of Ireland beef farmer.

The farmer in question has a beef finishing unit that takes in 270 bulls each year which are purchased as weanlings and finished under sixteen months.

“Every day is a school day. I have made mistakes here and there but learning from them is what matters. Attention to detail is key. My job is to add as much weight as possible to the carcass of each animal.” the farmer explained.

“They are fed a high concentrate diet over a 130-day period consisting of a mix of beet, meal, silage and straw.”

“It’s not a one size fits all approach. I monitor and evaluate the feed ratio on a daily basis and if I feel it needs to be tweaked that’s what I’ll do.”

“The big thing for me is to only give the bulls the freshest feed every time and I find that the best way to do this is on a ‘little and often’ basis.”

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The beef farmer feeds his herd multiple times per day; 70% of their daily quota at 6am and then pushes feed in at 5pm. “I’d feed them the remaining 30% of their daily quota at 8pm before pushing it in again at 10pm.”

Increasing animal performance

The farmer really began to ramp up his cattle-rearing operation three years ago. He splits the bulls out between three units that he has on the farm.

Each unit has several bays of EASYFIX slat mats while the rest of the space is made up of solid concrete flooring which is bedded with straw.

Facts and figures are at the forefront of this operation and everything gets measured. That is why he was acutely aware of using the correct bedding to help the cattle thrive the most.

Peat was used previously but this farmer found it to be labour intensive and the clean-up time consuming.

Straw would be the number one bedding choice for this farmer, but he would only use the finest quality straw which, as he noted, can be hard to source in Connacht.

Weight gain comparison

Having secured a quality supply of straw, the farmer decided to draw a weight-gain comparison between 56 bulls split between two pens; 28 were bedded on straw while the other 28 lay on bare concrete slats.

The bulls on straw yielded an average live weight gain of 0.17kg more than the bulls on bare concrete over a period from September to February.

He felt that there had to be more weight gain in them and in year two, he brought in 56 different bulls and swapped the concrete slats for EASYFIX SR slat rubber and ran the same comparison again.

He was pleasantly surprised to find that the bulls housed on EASYFIX SR slat rubber yielded an average live weight gain of 1.39kg per head.

He found this to be on-par with any weight gains he had previously seen on straw.

The farmer explained, “I have EASYFIX rubber matting on a lie-back area in one of the units and when I saw the bulls fighting to lie on it I knew the rubber on the slats was going to work a treat too.”

“The bulls certainly put it to the test. Achieving an average live weight gain of 1.39kg per head meant not only had I hugely surpassed all expectations, but I had also achieved payback on the rubber in just 17 months. What is more, I had less than 2% lameness over an 8-month period.”

Asked would he install more EASYFIX slat mats in the future, the farmer said, “Absolutely, my only problem is that I don’t have enough slatted areas in my shed.”

Information

For more information, see Easyfix’s website

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