Rubber Slat Mats – Worth The Money Or An Unnecessary Cost?

While many farmers have installed rubber mats on slats in their sheds, some have – for various reasons – decided not to. It begs the question: Are they beneficial?

At this time of the year, most farmers have the majority – if not all – of their cattle housed for the winter.

Rubber mats

The most common type of winter housing for beef cattle in Ireland is unsurprisingly, the slatted shed.

It’s no secret that cattle prefer to lie on rubber mats and any farmer who has seen cattle in a pen with the option of lying on rubber mats or a concrete floor, will bear testament to this, but what does the research say?

Teagasc researchers conducted a study last year to determine the effect of floor type on the performance and welfare of finishing beef steers – with bare concrete slats and rubber mats being the comparative floor types in the study.

This study was presented by Dr. Bernadette Earley from Teagasc, Grange, at Teagasc’s Virtual Beef Conference 2020.

Source: Teagasc

Study of Floor Type

The study was conducted over a 120-day period at Teagasc Grange, where the housing and slaughter performance of 144 late-maturing, continental-bred beef steers were assessed.

There were 36 pens allocated in total, with 18 pens being assigned to concrete slatted flooring (CSF) and 18 slatted pens with rubber mats (RM).

The finishing steers were grouped by their weight (averaging 590kg) and age and assigned to a pen for the duration of their feeding period. Their diet consisted of both grass silage and rolled barley as part of a total mixed ration – on a 60:40 dry matter basis.

The study set a 3m space allowance for each animal, with four steers grouped into each pen. The animals were weighed every 14 days up to day 84, where their weights were then recorded on a weekly basis.

Results

The performance data revealed that there was no significant difference in the dry matter intake (DMI) kg/day between the steers penned on CSF and RM.

However, there was a difference of 0.17/kg/day in the average daily liveweight gain (ADG) in favour of steers housed on RM.

Source: Teagasc

In terms of feed conversion ratio (FCR), animals penned on the CSF were performing less efficiently than the steers housed on RM, as they required an additional 1.8/kg of DMI in order to achieve a similar ADG.

The slaughter performance data was also reviewed as part of the study.

The trial illustrated that the slaughter weight recorded was an additional 18kg in the animals that were housed on RM.

These steers on RM also had achieved an additional 11kg of carcass weight.

There was no significant difference highlighted between the two housing conditions when reviewing kill-out percentage, carcass confirmation score and carcass fat score.

These studies even went further to assess the lying time (hr/day) and also the dirt scores of the animals under study, yet this element of study was not found to be in favour of either housing method.

(Source – Agriland – Breifne O Brien – 10/11/2021)

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Rural Enterprise Skillnet
Rural Enterprise Skillnet

The Rural Enterprise Skillnet is funded by member companies and the Training Networks Programme, an initiative of Skillnets Ltd. funded from the National Training Fund through the Department of Education and Skills.

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