Queensland shows way on shaded feedlots

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ALFA feedlot inudstry technical services officer Jeff House.
Camera IconALFA feedlot inudstry technical services officer Jeff House. Credit: Countryman

A Queensland study into cattle feedlot shade utilisation has shown some efficiency benefits, but more work is needed to convince industry shading cattle is the way to go.

Australian Lot Feeders Association technical services officer Jeff House, who spoke at the Better Beef event last Thursday, said a Meat and Live-stock Australia study conducted by University of Queensland associate professor John Gaughan in 2010 clearly demonstrated the benefits of having shade infrastructure in place.

“The trial saw Angus steers on a 120-day feeding period on a dry-rolled, wheat-based finisher diet provided with shade of 3.3m per steer, using 80 per cent solar block shade cloth aligned in a north-south orientation,” Mr House said.

“Cattle with access to shade had 3 per cent greater dry matter intake or 36kg extra and a 1.9 per cent increase in hot carcase weight, which was an extra 6kg/head at the processing plant.”

Mr House translated the changes in feed intake and carcase weight from Dr Gaughan’s stud to the current market conditions for implanted short-fed export market.

“Based on a $450/tonne diet at $3.05/kg feeder cattle price, and $6.10 forward contract price, feeding cattle under shade over summer resulted in at least a $20/head increase in profit,” he said. “Payback on commercial shade installation is approximately three to four years, averaged over the life of shade of approximately 15 years, the capital cost of shade is in the range of 1¢ to 2¢ /head/day.”

Mr House said shade impact on animal welfare was fivefold.

“Shade improves freedom of choice of cattle for normal shade-seeking behaviour,” he said. “It mitigates possible thermal discomfort, alleviates possible thirst and dehydration and reduces possible pain and disease. Shade also decreases possible fear and distress in cattle.”

Mr House said Queensland had 530,750 cattle under shade or 64 per cent of the State’s total feedlot numbers.

This compares with WA that has 5250 feedlot cattle in shade, or 7 per cent of the State’s total numbers.

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