Applied Animal Behavior and Welfare
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Little is understood regarding feedlot cattle housing and husbandry. Transitioning into a feedyard challenges homeostasis internally and externally. At the feedyard, cattle will experience a variety of simultaneous stressors (e.g., housing change, commingling, diet change, behavioral repertoire change) within a short period of time. Complications surrounding diet change, social dynamics, and environmental conditions compromise welfare and productivity. Therefore, there is a need to better understand how current management practices influence cattle welfare, and what practical and inexpensive management practices are effective in promoting cattle welfare.The primary objective of this proposal is to develop scientifically supported husbandry practices designed to enhance beef cattle welfare in feedyards. Little is understood regarding the impact of social mixing or repeated handling on feedlot cattle - a highly social and gregarious species. Environmental enrichment is a management strategy that promotes the performance of an appropriate suite of behaviors and can provide complexity to the standard feedyard pen. Cattle housed in feedyards will experience changes in their time budgets regarding walking, grazing, and ruminating. Evaluating the impact of additional physical activity, dietary composition, and environmental complexity on cattle health, productivity, and behavior will further our understanding of welfare-relevant cattle needs. Development and execution of this research project with the dissemination of research results will benefit the cattle industry in providing animal managers with an empirically supported set of tools to utilize while managing beef cattle.