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Preference of beef cattle for feedlot or pasture environments

By Caroline Lee, Andrew D. Fisher, Ian G. Colditz, Jim M. Lea, Drewe M. Ferguson

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Intensive feedlot finishing is perceived to affect welfare because cattle cannot perform normal behaviours evident in pasture environments. The objective of this study was to determine cattle preference for spending time at pasture (5ha) or in a feedlot (25×10m) under pastures with differing feed on offer; high (3900kg DM/ha) and low (1900kg DM/ha). Five groups of Angus steers consisting of six animals per group (454±9.3kg body weight) were tested in the high and low pasture treatments. A commercial pelleted ration was available ad libitum in the feedlot. Electronic tag readers monitored animal movements between the pasture and feedlot. Time spent lying and standing were measured with IceTags™ and time spent eating in the feedlot was recorded with video cameras. Data were analysed using a linear and regression model in ASREML. Cattle showed a preference for pasture where they spent 75% of their time and this was not influenced by pasture treatment, temperature or rainfall. Cattle preferred the feedlot in the morning with 61% of cattle choosing the feedlot environment which coincided with a peak in eating from the feeder. There was little feedlot activity at night between 20:00 and 05:00h with 90% of cattle choosing the pasture environment. Cattle had a preference to lie down at pasture with 81±0.02% of their lying occurring whilst at pasture (P

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 145
Issue 3
Pages 53-59
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2013.03.005
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  2. Cattle
  3. pastures
  4. preferences
  5. welfare