Feedlot Bedding Study

Watts, PJ, Yan MJ, Sullivan, TJ, Luttrell, MM, Davis, RJ and Keane, OB - Meat & Livestock Australia

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

This research article looks at a feedlot bedding study and the experiment related a type and cost of regionally available bedding materials.


What is the problem?

There has been increasing interest over the past several years in the use of bedding materials in Australian cattle feedlots. While the primary interest relates to the potential for improvements in production, animal health and welfare during the wet winter period, there are many other reasons these options are being examined.

This research project aimed:

  • the entire evaluation of the use of bedding materials in Australian cattle feedlots and provide a report that incorporates the assorted bedding recourse available including material type, size grading, availability, cost and handling aspects
  • instance learning on each feedlot at which bedding material has been trialled including the changes in animal health and performance, dag loading, cattle and pen rider safety, condition of the bedding over time, and pen repair and maintenance costs
  • the evaluation of an industry viability of bedding use, including the practicalities of recycling the bedding materials
  • a “best-bet” recommendation for the use of bedding materials in different circumstances to solve different problems encountered at feedlots

What did the research involve?

3.1 Overview of Pen Surface Amendment used in intensive animal facilities
-PSA has been used in intensive animal facilities to improve the health and welfare of confined animals and it can also provide a safer working environment for staff.

3.1.1 Typical problems addressed by PSA
-Dirty cattle: manure and mud covering the sides and bellies of cattle (i.e. formation of ‘dags’).
– However, in some circumstances, this is not possible (e.g. during transport) or when the livestock do not prefer to lie on a surface that is too hot, too cold and wet, too muddy or to sharp and uneven. Bedding can provide a comfortable surface for resting.

3.1.2 Possible solutions
PSS and PSC can be used to solve a range of problems.
-However, the use of either solution may solve one problem but, in turn, create a new problem that requires a separate solution. Pen surface stabilisation (PSS)
-Feedlots can use PSS to construct a solid pen surface, either during the initial construction phase or as a remedial action after the pen surface has broken down.
Cement and chemical soil stabilisers
Cement stabilisation is a mixture of soil and measured amounts of Portland cement and water compacted to a high density (Adaska 1990). Pen surface covering (PSC)
-PSC is used in both covered and uncovered feedlots to provide improved health and welfare outcomes for cattle.

3.2 Pen Surface Covering material characterisation

3.2.1 PSC attributes

-Absorbency – the ability or tendency of a bedding material to absorb or soak up liquid;
– Durability – the ability of a bedding material to endure constant, regular loadings and resist the stress and force applied, whilst maintaining its structural form;

2.2 PSC physical characteristics
– In addition to the attributes listed above, there are some physical characteristics of PSC materials that should also be considered.

3.2.3 PSC cost and availability
-Clearly, cost and availability are important parameters when considering suitability for use in feedlots.

3.3.2 Live export
-Australian cattle are routinely transported short and long distances by sea to markets such as Indonesia and the Middle East.

3.3.3 Dairies
– Bedding is used in a range of dairy systems, including freestalls, loose housing and wintering systems.

3.3.5 Northern US uncovered feedlots
-Bedding materials are widely used in beef feedlots in Canada and northern US states because the colder climatic conditions are uncomfortable for the cattle (Miller et al. 2006).

3.3.6 Fully covered feedlots
– In some circumstances, feedlots can be fully covered (i.e. with a roof that excludes rainfall).

3.5 Types of bedding material for pen surface covering (PSC) in Australia

3.5 Types of bedding material for pen surface covering (PSC) in Australia
– Pen surface covering, or bedding, is used in overseas animal production systems, usually to increase animal comfort and performance, reduce odour production and intensity, and minimise the deterioration of earthen pen surfaces resulting from frequent animal traffic and / or persistent wet conditions (O’Keefe et al. 2010). Different types of bedding are used.

What were the key findings?

6.4.1 Wood chip separation by trommel only
-This indicates that, in the process of pen cleaning, transport and then tumbling in the trommel, over 90% of the pen manure / wood chip was less than 20 mm in size.

6.4.2 Wood chip separation by shaker only
-Shaker screening separated 50% of Feedlot B pen manure and 56% of Feedlot C pen manure.

6.4.3 Wood chip separation by trommel and shaker
-The wood chip fraction was split evenly between 10.

6.4.4 Overall screening results
-The 10-40 mm stream at both feedlots had the highest wood chip contents, ranging from 45% – 58%

6.4.5 Overall wood chip recovery from pens
-A mass balance was used to estimate the wood chip recovery at Feedlots B and C. Wood chip recovery is the percentage of wood chip that was placed in the pen that was recovered in the screening and washing process.

6.5.1 Wood chip separation by screening
– Different wood chip separation was demonstrated by each of the screening trials.

6.5.2 Wood chip losses in pen
-The particle size analysis comparing fresh wood chip entering the pen and used wood chip exiting the pen saw a similar profile at both feedlots.

While this trial showed that some conventional wood chip remains in the pen manure after removal from the pen, it did show that it would not be economically feasible to recover enough wood chip of a suitable size to re-use in pens.

Final comment

This study illustrate a bedding can play a useful role in some sections of feedlots but is not viable to cover whole production pens due to cost and handling issues.

2015 - Australia - Watts, PJ, Yan MJ, Sullivan, TJ, Luttrell, MM, Davis, RJ and Keane, OB - Meat & Livestock Australia
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