Virtual conference to delve into feed withdrawal at cattle feedlots

Taking away the grain

Bovine Dynamics Pty Ltd veterinarian and research scientist, Melissa George, will be on hand during SmartBeef to outline findings from her work into finding the optimum period of feed withdrawal in feedlot cattle headed to processors.

Bovine Dynamics Pty Ltd veterinarian and research scientist, Melissa George, will be on hand during SmartBeef to outline findings from her work into finding the optimum period of feed withdrawal in feedlot cattle headed to processors.

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Trial set to generate data to drive change in cattle feed withdrawal practices.

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New research is shedding light on the impacts of withdrawing feedlot cattle from feed prior to transport.

Led by Australian Country Choice and managed by Meehan AgriBusiness Solutions, the project measured truck effluent, animal welfare, carcase characteristics and microbiological load from cattle subjected to zero, four, eight, or twelve hours of feed withdrawal.

Melissa and Matt George, of Bovine Dynamics, provided scientific advice and expertise in project design, animal ethics, data analysis, and publication.

Dr George said taking cattle off feed before processing is a common practice to reduce the amount of faeces produced during transportation and, therefore, the total volume of effluent to manage on trucks and at the abattoir.

But recent research in Australian feedlot cattle challenged the practice of feed withdrawal.

A pilot study found reducing the duration of feed withdrawal prior to transport increased muscle glycogen levels and increased hot carcase weight in feedlot cattle.

Muscle glycogen is a key indicator of animal welfare and beef quality.

Less time off feed also lowered the pH of the rumen, which may improve food safety by limiting the growth of microbiological organisms in cattle gut.

So, a shorter period of feed withdrawal could benefit animal welfare, food safety, beef quality and productivity, according to Dr George.

Based on its commitment to advance animal welfare and the sustainability of the beef industry, Australian Country Choice started a large-scale 5000-head trial to further test the effects of feed withdrawal in feedlot cattle - with a specific focus on effluent quantity and quality.

Dr George said the effluent produced by cattle during transportation may have value as an energy source, or fertiliser.

At the coming virtual SmartBeef 2021 Conference, she will outline the findings from investigating a range of feed withdrawal durations - including zero, four, eight and 12 hours.

"The results of this trial will provide feedlotters with meaningful and large-scale data to drive change in the area of feed withdrawal practices," she said.}

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