New manual for lot feeders for options on covered housing systems

The manual also provides siting and design guidance that will be useful for any business planning to install a covered housing system under Australian conditions.

Australian lot feeders have access to a new manual that can help them weigh up the different options and considerations for covered housing systems.

Climatic variability, combined with the Australian lot feeding industry’s shade and shelter initiative has seen an unprecedented interest in covered and partially covered housing systems and their application to the Australian lot feeding industry.

To help the Australian lot feeding industry evaluate different options, Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has launched the ‘MLA Best practice design and management manual for covered and partially covered housing systems’.

Dr Matt Van der Saag, Project Manager – Feedlot & Sustainability at MLA announced the launch of the manual at the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association’s (ALFA) SmartBeef event in Tamworth, NSW on October 12.

“The manual is built upon the best available knowledge from around the world for these systems, along with knowledge gained from visits to a variety of covered housing systems operational in Australia,” Dr Van der Saag said.

“The manual details design, construction, bedding, manure management, welfare standards, animal health considerations, and costs of these systems compared to best practice unshaded feedlot pens.”

Many Australian feedlots have already installed shade systems. The Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA) indicates that almost 70% of feedlot cattle capacity has shade or shelter already, and that there is increased interest in covering the pens with solid, waterproof roofing that may be installed over part of the pen or the entire pen. This was a key consideration when the manual was being developed.

The creation of the manual came following site visits with lot feeders using covered or partially covered facilities in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania.

MLA and ALFA also ran two ‘Going Under Cover’ events for the feedlot sector to over 148 feedlot stakeholders in Western Australia in March 2023 and Victoria/South Australia in May 2023.

The events aimed to drive adoption of shade and shelter in Australian feedlots by showcasing examples of shelter in use at a variety of feedlots and the productivity and animal welfare benefits they have experienced.

According to Dr Van der Saag, the manual also provides siting and design guidance that will be useful for any business planning to install a covered housing system under Australian conditions.

“The manual also contains important information regarding welfare standards, animal health considerations as well as state-by-state regulatory approvals that need to be adhered to, and the all-important costs discussion,” Dr Van der Saag said.

“Ultimately, this manual is an important resource for the modification or construction of feedlots. We would encourage all interested to review the information as the potential benefits of covered housing systems for cattle are significant.”

For feedlots who have already implemented fully covered shade systems, the benefits have been numerous.

This includes better animal welfare outcome for cattle under shade, but also see improvements in feed efficiency, as well as cleaner cattle for presentation at slaughter and meat-eating quality improvements.

Outside of benefits for livestock, shaded feedlots also provide better working conditions for staff, especially in summer as the heat and humidity climbs.