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Keeping Finishing Cattle Clean this Winter

14 December 2020

Ensuring cattle arrive for slaughter in a clean condition is crucial to reduce the risk of contamination within the processing plant and minimise the associated financial penalties imposed.

Straw Bedding

One of the most important factors influencing how clean cattle are is the amount and quality of straw used for bedding.  Providing cattle with adequate bedding improves cattle cleanliness.  Finishing cattle should be a priority for bedding if straw supplies are looking to be tight on farm this winter to ensure cattle are presented clean for slaughter.  Bedding cattle using wet straw will do very little in the way of keeping cattle clean (regardless of how much is used) and is likely to lead to more straw being required to compensate for the wet straw used to begin with.  Where possible ensure only dry good quality clean straw is used for bedding finishing cattle.

Overstocking in straw bedded pens and sheds is one of the main reasons (along with insufficient bedding used and bedding less frequently) for cattle becoming dirty in straw bedded systems.

Clipping Cattle

Clipping cattle is one method to help keep cattle clean.  Clipping the backs of cattle at housing reduces sweating which helps to keep animal’s cleaner as well as reducing pneumonia risk.  Clipping the tails will stop dirt being flicked over the animal’s body.  Ensure good handling facilities are in place before clipping to minimise the risk of injury to both people and stock.

Shed Ventilation

A good air flow through the building will help reduce the relative humidity (dampness) of the air within the shed.  This will allow the bedding (or slats) to dry quickly therefore improving cleanliness by reducing sweating and keeping bedding dry.  Good ventilation helps to give stock a dry bed to lie in which will keep their hair clean and dry.  Increased comfort and lying time is also likely to improve stock performance.

Scrape Feed Stance

A simple and effective way of helping to keep stock clean and reduce straw usage is to keep the feed stance area clean.  A lot of dung and urine is produced while cattle are eating meaning the feed stance becomes dirty quite quickly.  If the dung is allowed to build up cattle eventually begin to sink down into it while they stand to eat which results in a build-up of dung to their legs and depending on the depth of the muck their bellies also.  By simply scraping this area clean and not allowing the build-up of muck cattle with stay cleaner.  Up to 30% less straw will be needed for bedding if feed stances are kept clean.

Sarah Balfour,

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