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Animal health survey of Australian feedlot sector 2010
This report presents findings from a survey conducted in 2011 of a randomly selected set of Australian feedlots. A total of 121 feedlots were selected from each of four size strata with selection probability weighted more heavily for the larger feedlot size categories. The target number of responses was 57 and the survey team received response from 47 feedlots (82.5% of the target number and 39% of the 121 feedlots that were contacted to ask if they would participate).
All 47 participating feedlots provided responses to the questionnaire component of the survey and 13 feedlots provided some form of electronic data as well. Of these 10 feedlots were found to have provided electronic data that could be used to produce summary statistics for weight gain (ADG) and six feedlots provided detailed data at the individual animal level that could be used to summarise morbidity (pulls) and mortality rates.
Responses from the questionnaire were aggregated and analysed to produce summary statistics that can be used to describe patterns and performance in Australian feedlots and management practices. The results provide a useful summary of management practices across all feedlots in Australia with summaries presented by size category and with separate results for the two states with most feedlots (NSW and QLD). These results are considered able to be extrapolated to the overall population of all feedlots in Australia because of the random selection process applied in choosing feedlots for inclusion in the study and the fact that all size classes and multiple states were represented in the survey.
Detailed electronic files were provided by feedlots in the larger two size categories and provide very useful summary information on performance and in particular patterns of pulls and mortalities based both on calendar month and weeks on feed. Since these records were only obtained from larger feedlots (no electronic files were obtained from feedlots in the smallest size category and most records were from feedlots in the largest category), the findings from these analyses may not represent performance in all feedlots. Since most of the cattle on feed in Australia are likely to be held in the larger feedlots, the findings from these analyses are still of direct use for the industry.
There is a clear pattern in induction of cattle with a peak in March that is comprised of <85 day cattle and cattle in the 85 to <120 day class. There is then a second peak in inductions in August that is comprised of cattle in the 85 to <120 day and 120 to <250 day classes.
Pull rates and mortality rates are presented by month of the year and by week on feed. There is a clear association between pull rates and mortality rates with pull rates rising and falling about a week ahead of mortality rates.
The highest mortality rates are seen in animals in the shortest feed duration (<85 days) and the lowest mortality rates in the animals in the longest market feed class (>250 days on feed).
Respiratory disease is the major cause of morbidity and mortality by a very clear margin.
There is also an association between mortality rates and weeks on feed, particularly for animals in the shorter three market classes (<85d, 85 to <120d and 120 to <250d). There is a progressive rise in mortality rate from the first week on feed to a peak between 4 and 6 weeks on feed. There is then a progressive decline to levels that are not different to the first week rate by about week 12 to 15. Given that the shortest feed category (<85d) are generally finished by about week 12, the mortality rate at the end of the feed period is still significantly higher than the rate in the first week on feed. In other feed categories the mortality rate continues to decline over time to a rate not different to the first week. This pattern appears to be very consistent across the three market feed classes and independent of the time of year when animals enter the feedlot. This information has potential ramifications for management of feedlots and animals to minimise disease risk.
Results of the current survey have been compared to findings in the previous two surveys of performance in Australian feedlots. Using the findings of the current survey it is estimated that the annual cost of all losses due to pulls and deaths across the Australian feedlot industry is more than $50 million per year and is equivalent to a cost of about $22,000 per 1000 head turned off. Using an achievable target based on the threshold separating the best performing 25% of feedlots in the current survey (for mortality rates) it is postulated that industry can achieve a 20% reduction in disease costs, representing a saving of about $10.6 million per year.
This study has provided very useful descriptions of common management practices across feedlots in Australia. It has relied on collection of survey information through a questionnaire, and through limited provision of retrospective electronic records. Questionnaire data do not allow detailed analysis to identify risk factors that may be influencing morbidity or mortality risk. Similarly the electronic records obtained during this study did not contain information on risk factors. As a result this study has been limited to largely descriptive analyses.
It is recommended that consideration be given to a study that assesses the potential usefulness and availability, accessibility and statistical quality of retrospective records from the feedlot industry for the purpose of risk factor analyses for bovine respiratory disease in feedlot cattle.
This page was last updated on 28/12/2017
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