Risk factors associated with beef cattle losses on intensive fattening farms in Austria, Germany and Italy

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The aim of this study was to investigate management and feeding practices associated with on-farm loss rate (mortality) on 63 beef cattle farms in Austria, Germany and Italy with housing systems other than fully slatted pens. Information on mortality and 56 categorised factors relating to the cleanliness of animal facilities, health and feeding management, animal-human interaction, cattle transport and origin were gathered during on-farm visits. Samples of total mixed rations (TMRs) were collected and analysed for chemical composition and particle size distribution. Twenty-eight categorised factors were removed from the initial 56 due to exclusion criteria (missing data ≥ 20% and/or monolevel factors with ≥ 80% answers in one category). Mortality was the response variable in the risk factor analysis and the remaining 10 continuous covariates from TMR analyses and 28 categorised factors were independent predictors. Mean (± standard deviation) mortality, representing the proportion of dead, euthanased and early culled animals over the total number of animals bought in or reared in the previous year, was 2.8 ± 3.5%. Fourteen factors were significantly associated with mortality in the bivariable analyses; seven factors were not considered further in the multivariable analysis due to collinearity. None of the factors related to TMR were associated with mortality. Four categorical factors, referring to biosecurity measures and management, were retained in the final multivariable model, with country effect. Buying cattle from only one farm, no mixing of animals during transport, presence of a dedicated sick pen and keeping production records were associated with lower percentage mortality.




Brščić, M., Kirchner, M. K., Knierim, U., Contiero, B., Gottardo, F., Winckler, C., & Cozzi, G. (2018). Risk factors associated with beef cattle losses on intensive fattening farms in Austria, Germany and Italy. Veterinary Journal, 239, 48–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tvjl.2018.08.002

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