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Better air flow through cattle housing mean better beef profitability Good ventilation lifts growth rates for Gloucestershire beef producer


Improved ventilation in his finishing shed has boosted growth rates for Gloucestershire beef producer Chris Andrews.

Based just outside Cheltenham, Mr Andrews rears dairy beef cattle, taking weaned dairy calves at four months of age, when they weigh approximately 170kg. He finishes them between 580 and 600kg, which is usually when they are about 14 months.

He explains that the calves move from the dairy farm to a calf rearer, before being moved to his farm once they are fully weaned.

“We are a dedicated TB unit, meaning we take weaned calved which are originally from farms with TB so the animals are housed at all stages. They’re fed a total mixed ration (TMR) which we work closely with our nutritionist to optimise for the different groups of cattle,” he adds.

As a beef finishing unit with up to 1,500 animals on-farm at any one time, animal health is optimised to enable strong growth rates and to prevent losses due to disease, which includes considering how the housed environment impacts livestock health.


“Although youngstock are often the focus when it comes to improving ventilation due to concerns around the impact of pneumonia on growth rates, we’ve found susceptibility to heat stress in the larger cattle has been an increasing concern in recent years,” he says.

Mr Andrews decided to invest in a VentTube Cool system for the dedicated finishing shed, following issues during warmer weather when growth rates in the finishing shed dropped.

“As soon as the positive pressure tube system was installed in February 2022, we noticed the air was immediately fresher. We continued to see benefits over the hot summer, when the cattle lay down in a straight line underneath the tube to stay comfortable in the cooler air.”

Mr Andrews notes that he’s also seen benefits when it comes to the amount of bedding used.

“Since installing the pressure tube, the bedding in the finishing shed has been much drier, which has halved the quantity of straw used in that shed.

“I usually use a bale per 100 cattle per day, but in the finishing shed I’m now using one bale for all 200 cattle, which is saving me approximately £20 per day on straw.”

Growth rates

Farm nutritionist Mustapha Salawu from Ruminant Management, says that the housed environment is a critical factor when it comes to optimising growth rates.

“Without any change to ration formulation, improving air quality can improve liveweight gain by 50 to 200g/day,” he explains. “This is down to the impact on cow comfort, which in turn improves performance.”

Dr Salawu assessed the projected increase in liveweight gain in the finishing shed, based on the improvement in airflow after the positive pressure tube system was installed. “With all factors remaining the same, apart from the improvement to airflow, the finishing cattle can be expected to gain an average of 90g/day extra.”

The benefits of improved ventilation were obvious during summer 2022, when there was no need to adjust the ration for the cattle in the finishing shed, says Dr Salawu. Tweaking the ration had been required in previous years to support them during warm periods, he adds.

But the benefits of improved ventilation can be seen throughout the year. “The cattle at Mr Andrews’ farm are on a consistent ration throughout the growing and finishing periods. They benefit from the consistency, but the ration is formulated assuming an ideal temperature, which is between 5 and 15°C.

“Even in winter, the temperature in the finishing shed can rise above 15°C, because of the heat coming from the cattle themselves. This means good ventilation can support cow comfort and performance year-round,” he concludes.