Dickson, E. J., Campbell, D. L. M., Lee, C. et al. 2022. Beef cattle preference and usage of environmental enrichments provided simultaneously in a pasture-based environment. Animals 12(24), 3544.

Environmental enrichment can improve livestock welfare through increasing environmental complexity to promote a greater range of natural behaviours. However, there is limited understanding of the need for and impacts of enrichments for extensively managed beef cattle that can sometimes be kept in grassed paddocks devoid of additional natural and artificial features, i.e., ‘barren pastures’. This trial assessed which enrichments beef cattle preferred and utilised in a barren paddock environment. Eight groups of seven Angus steers housed on pastured paddocks devoid of natural or artificial features were observed during daylight hours for two days a week over a period of three weeks, after being presented with four enrichments simultaneously: a cattle brush, a piece of hanging rope, a tree stump, and a woodchip pile. Although enrichment use generally decreased over time, the brush, stump, and woodchip maintained a higher level of use than the rope, based on the frequency of interactions and number of displacements around the enrichments (both p < 0.001). This suggests that the brush, stump, and woodchip pile were more valuable resources to the cattle, allowing for grooming and lying behaviours, although oral manipulations also occurred on the stump, woodchip, and rope. The inclusion of these enrichments can increase the complexity of barren pasture environments and allow for the increased expression of natural behaviours, potentially contributing to improved welfare.

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