Quantifying the animal welfare and production benefits of shade structures in southern feedlots is the focus of a new research project this summer, funded by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA).
The research project is being undertaken by the University of New England at its Tullimba feedlot research facility, led by Dr Angela Lees and Dr Peter McGilchrist.
Researchers are investigating the impacts of two different types of shade on feedlot cattle, compared to no shade, and will follow the cattle through to slaughter.
The proposed shade structure will be a two-tiered design, comprising firstly of a section of 290
/300 GSM knitted Monofilament polyethylene 80% UVsolar block shade cloth , and a second translucent section of waterproof 340GSM high UV polyethylene.
The two-tiered shade / shelter system, designed and supplied by Architex Fabric Structures, a subsidiary of Polytex, will feature a vented apex to allow air flow through the structure, to help in the management of pen surface conditions.
Project leader, Dr Angela Lees, who has been involved in previous shade and shelter research projects in Queensland, said while Tullimba is in the temperate New England climate, they anticipate cattle will seek shade and experience production benefits similar to northern shade trials.
“Most people would consider the New England summer to be relatively mild, but we’ve seen cattle here in the December to March period expressing heat stress behaviours,” Dr Lees said.
“The high elevation of the New England region means we do know there is a solar load effect.
“Some of our colleagues in the United States have defined that in locations such as Nebraska, there is a solar load effect. So locations that are higher, tend to experience heat stress at a lower threshold.
“We’re confident we’ll see the welfare and production benefits from these shade structures, similar to northern trials, but we need the data to quantify it.”
The research will involveBos Taurus pregnancy-tested empty heifers, fed for 100 to 110 days.
“The first co-hort of cattle will go into the feedlot in December, while the second co-hort will go inapproximately 50 days later in mid-January,” Dr Lees said.
“The reason is to measure the difference between early summer conditions and late summer conditions on different components of the feeding term.
“The December cattle will come off, having been through summer their entire feeding period. The later cattle will come off when conditions here are starting to cool off a little bit.
“We will follow them to slaughter, and get a Meat Standards Australia (MSA) grade on them so we can see the carcase characteristics.
“We’re also collecting the adrenal glands to measure chronic stress , the project will really help quant
“The project will really help quantify the impacts of shade from a science perspective while still giving a real world outcome for the Australian feedlot industry.”