The wet winter months are a risk period for damage to pasture under grazing systems in New Zealand. The use of stand-off pads and alternative forages and grazing systems may alleviate these risks, but may also impact on the performance and welfare of cattle. This experiment compared four wintering systems for growing beef calves (9–11 months old, n=103) in terms of growth rate and welfare of calves, and damage to pasture. Treatments were a forage crop of oats, set-stocked grazing on pasture, breakfed on pasture, and break-fed on pasture with use of a concrete feedpad and wood-shavings stand-off area when the soil was wet. Liveweight gain was greatest (P<0.05) for the set-stocked (0.81±0.02 kg/day) and break-fed calves (0.52±0.02 kg/day), and least for the calves in the feedpad (0.19±0.02 kg/day) and crop treatments (0.10±0.02 kg/day). The percentage of calves lying down was least in the break-fed and oats treatments (P<0.05) but faecal corticosterone concentration was greatest in the feedpad treatment (P<0.05). Pasture damage was greater under rotational grazing (score 3.8/5) than set stocking (score 2.9/5), but use of the feedpad did not prevent damage to pasture (score 3.4/5). Set-stocking had the best outcomes for calves and pasture.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 75, Dunedin, 167-171, 2015
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