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Virtual Beef Conference 2020 - Day 2: Improving beef health and welfare


Improving Beef health and welfare is the theme of Day 2 of the Virtual Beef Conference 2020, held at 8pm Wednesday 2nd December. The second of three nights of webinars featured presentations by Dr. Bernadette Earley from Teagasc Grange and Dr. Doreen Corridan from Munster Bovine

Day 2 of the conference was Chaired by: Dr. Conor McAloon, UCD School of Veterinary Medicine 

View Webinar Recording here:

The first of two presentations was delivered by Dr. Bernadette Earley - Teagasc Grange Research. The title of Bernadette's presentation was: 

Effect of space allowance and underfoot conditions on indoor finishing cattle performance and welfare

This is what Bernadette had to say : The main critical points for cattle welfare during housing have been identified by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the European Commission and the EU Welfare Quality® project, these include; housing conditions, areas for feeding, walking and resting, space allowance and flooring, social and maternal behaviour, dominance, grouping, and re-grouping of animals. Most recently, concern for the welfare of finishing cattle, particularly in relation to housing conditions (space allocation and floor type), has been expressed at EU and OIE level. With regard to space allowance, there have been suggestions to increase the space allowances per animal on concrete slatted floors (CSF) to 3.0 m2 for a 500 kg animal ± 0.5 m2 per 100 kg above or below this. This equates to almost doubling the current space allocation provided to finishing beef cattle. There have also been calls for the use of CSF to be phased out and be replaced by more ‘welfare friendly’ floor surfaces such as CSF overlaid with rubber mats or use of straw bedding. Research addressing effect of space allowance and underfoot conditions on indoor finishing cattle performance and welfare is presented here at the Teagasc Beef Conference. The overall conclusion was that under the conditions of this study, performance and feed efficiency of finishing steers was enhanced on rubber mats compared to concrete slatted floors

Dr. Doreen Corridan from Munster Bovine gave the second presentation titled:

Best practice vaccination protocols for suckler cows pre-calving

In her presentation Doreen answered the questions: Why vaccinate? and What to vaccinate for? She stressed that vaccines work - however they are not a correction for poor management. She outlined vaccination protocols for suckler cows pre-calving. She emphasised the importance of the cow producing good quality colostrum. This is best achieved through:

  1. proper feeding of good quality silage, supplying energy and protein
  2. feeding minerals
  3. good liver fluke control
  4. feeding the cow fully in the last 2 weeks before calving

Hygiene of the cow pre-calving and the hygiene of the calving pen at calving was also discussed. Vaccinations for Leptospirosis, IBR, Salmonella as well as Intranasal and Clostridial vaccines were also elaborated on. Above all Doreen emhasised that farmers need to use vaccines properly and reduce the use of antibiotics. Antibiotics should not be the first line of treatment but reserved for critical use.

In summary there are many Covid-19 lessons learned that can be applied to farming including; hygiene, sanitisation, social distancing - stocking rate, ventilation, test & trace - diagnostics, vulnerable in population, isolation of positive animals and vaccination

For more information on the Virtual Beef Conference and to see details of what's in store for Day 3 see here https://www.teagasc.ie/beefcon20/