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Preference of Beef Cattle for Feedlot or Pasture Environments

Three MLA projects have been funded to examine the preference of beef cattle for feedlot or pasture environments.

The initial study (B.FLT.0349) employed the accepted practice of ‘free choice testing’, and showed that the two strong preferences of cattle were to access the feedlot during the day where they consumed the majority of their daily nutritive requirements, and to access the pasture at night where they mainly lay down to rest.

The second study (B.FLT.0149) utilised the Y-maze methodology, which enabled the imposition of a “cost” on the animal’s decision, and assessed motivation to enter either the feedlot or pasture environment. This work demonstrated that cattle showed a preference for the feedlot when there was a cue associated with feeding and that they were willing to pay the cost of their choice by then being unable to access the pasture. However, further work was needed to assess cattle choice under ad libitum feeding conditions.

The third study (B.FLT.0158), again utilised the Y-maze and examined the impact of ad libitum feed availability (Experiment 1) and differing degrees of mud (Experiment 2) in the feedlot on preference for feedlot versus pasture. In Experiment 1 cattle showed individual differences in their preferences for the feedlot or pasture environments, with some animals consistently preferring one or other of the environments. Nonetheless, it was evident that cattle did not find the feedlot environment aversive. In Experiment 2, cattle showed no difference in their preference for the feedlot or pasture under differing feedlot pad scores.


Title Size Date published
1.0MB 01/10/2014
821.8KB 09/11/2011
1.6MB 18/09/2016


Contract No. Title Start date End date Funding type
Assessing cattle motivation for access to pasture or feedlot environments
10/05/2012 31/12/2013
Feed choices: Cattle preference for feedlot or pasture environments.
01/05/2009 02/08/2011
Effect of mud on cattle motivation for feedlot or pasture environments
15/05/2014 09/12/2016

This page was last updated on 31/07/2018