Feedlot system is a fattening system for beef and dairy cattle, it is a common practiced in developed countries. The practice is that beef calves are weaned at 8 to 10 months and sent to backgrounding by using grass as feed and providing minimal supplements while dairy calves are weaned at birth and given milk replacer (milk concentrate) until they are weaned. They are then sent to feedlot at 1.5 to 2years at 220 – 250 kg where they are fed intensively for beef production purpose.
Feedlots are important to eliminate inter-regional movement of cattle herds in search food,water or maket which is a common practise is some parts of Africa. This has led to competition between animals and the available arable lands, exposure of the farming communities to security threats resulting into loss of human lives, loss of animals, loss of crops and low returns on investments.
The advantages feedlot system has over open grazing system are:
- Animals have access to good quality feed and water frequently
- Excellent feed conversion efficiency
- Increased Productivity and profitability
- Better carcass and meat quality
- Ease of treatment, sound health and good biosecurity
- Ease of stock taking
- Animals are safe and safe from other environmental hazards.
Feedlot is beneficial for compensatory growth effects livestock production and high returns on investments. The practice of grain feeding of cattle has increased rapidly and over 90 % of the steers and heifers slaughtered are marketed by feedlots which resulted into rapid increase in the demand for fed beef and increased.
Feed lot system supports beef production efficiently as most steers and heifers are slaughtered in less than 36months after their conception and in turn leads to high profitabilty which is determined by cattle prices, feed cost, changes in beef prices and consumption.
Two types of feedlot enterprises :
- Commercial feedlots:
The commercial type operate all the year round with a capacity of more than 1000 heads of cattle which are in operation all year. Its usually owned by corporate farms and sole proprietorship. It is require large capital to own commercial feedlots as they purchase all or most of their feeder cattle, feed and other inputs. Feedstuffs usually are premixed and delivered to the cattle feed troughs by self-unloading trucks or other power equipment.
- Farmer-Operated Feedlots:
This type of feedlot has a capacity of less than 200 heads which are often only in operation during the non-cropping season when off-season labour is available.
Shelter is important for protection from cold weather or extreme heat are more efficient growth rates will be achieved. The general practise is to keep the cattle in semi-confinement in order to control waste production, housing is done over slatted floors, all faeces and urine can be collected, thus eliminating the need for using bedding material. At present most of the cattle in feedlots are still kept on concrete floors, or in dry regions, on an unpaved area. Solids from manure are either collected daily and stored, or allowed to dry in the feedlot and removed periodically before spreading on fields. Collection of urine is limited to feedlots with a slatted floor.