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R&D to quantify shade and shelter benefits

22 June 2020

Key points:

  • Two new research projects will examine the impacts of shade and shelter in commercial feedlots in southern production regions.
  • Previous research has demonstrated shade effects on feedlot cattle performance in Queensland.
  • A unique aspect of this research is it will examine the value proposition of covered housing systems which are increasing in popularity.

The benefits of shade and shelter on feedlot cattle in temperate climates will be examined through two new research projects in Victoria and WA to build on past MLA research.

MLA has previously funded projects to demonstrate shade effects on feedlot cattle performance in Queensland, however, the impacts of shade and shelter in commercial feedlots in southern production regions have not been examined.

Victoria and WA feedlots to host projects

The new projects, funded by MLA in consultation with the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA), will be conducted by the University of New England at a commercial feedlot in Victoria, and by Murdoch University at a commercial feedlot in southern WA over two years.

MLA Feedlot Program Manager Dr Joe McMeniman said in addition to conventional shade options, there is increasing interest by lot feeders around feedlot shelter solutions to provide protection against not only heat but also wet weather.

“We’ve received many enquiries from lot feeders in the last year wanting to learn more about the benefits of covered housing systems. We want to provide appropriate information to lot feeders to optimise animal comfort and profitability in southern environments,” Dr McMeniman said.

“The UNE project will evaluate the influence of unshaded, shaded and sheltered (solid roof shed) infrastructure on the health, welfare, performance and carcase characteristics from feedlot cattle over an 18-month period.

“It will be conducted under commercial conditions at a commercial feedlot that experiences heat events and typically has cold wet winters, to provide lot feeders with information about the benefits and return on investment periods of shade and shelter options.

“The Murdoch University project will evaluate the benefits of shade on feedlot cattle in a temperate climatic region in summer and winter, in terms of performance, health, welfare and carcase characteristics.

“The outcomes, of both studies will build on learning from MLA’s past research investments on shade in Queensland at both Brigalow research station near Theodore and University of Queensland, Gatton campus.”