Bedding in the feedlot

Feedlot cattle that are cold and wet aren’t going to perform as well as those that aren’t. South Dakota State University did a study on the use of bedding in feedlots. The research was done on finishing cattle from January through late spring in 2019, and then again on receiving cattle in the fall of 2019.

Warren Rusche is an extension beef feedlot management associate. He says the winter of 2019 was one that cattle producers in South Dakota probably want to forget. It was one of the harshest winters they’d seen in a long time, so the study results were very telling.

"The difference that bedding made in terms of performance on finishing cattle was really eye-opening. We saw differences in maintenance energy costs of about 40% during that first 30 days of January in 2019," says Rusche. "And the cattle that weren’t bedded took an extra 35 days of feed in order to get to the same endpoint as the cattle where we did provide some bedding."

He says they didn’t see quite as large of a response in the receiving trial that was conducted in the fall, but still saw positive performance. Rusche also notes that feeders in his area use crop residues for cattle comfort. 

"You use what’s available and what’s the most economical and for a lot of folks that’s corn stalks, wheat straw, other kinds of small grain residue, you could use soybean residue, it’s really kind of what you have," he says. "In a larger pen, what I’d look at doing would be bedding probably just off the concrete apron or near or on that mound surface so that they have a dry place to lay down that’s large enough so that the whole group can lay down at one time."