Skip to main content
Doctoral thesis, 2013

Labour input in Swedish intensive beef cattle production

Bostad, Elise


Red veal and young bull production are the two main intensive beef finishing systems in Sweden and utilise practically all male calves from the dairy and suckler cow herds. This thesis examined labour input and physical working conditions in the two systems in order to identify factors influencing these parameters. Data collection was mainly based on questionnaires, complemented by observations and interviews on farm visits, and related to the most common work tasks performed during different stages of the finishing period. Motivating factors among the Swedish intensive beef cattle producers were examined to analyse how individual orientations of motivation can help understanding farmers’ working conditions. Total time required per calf in red veal production (n=31) was 5.5, 1.9 and 2.0 h/calf for small, medium and large farms, respectively. This corresponded to a labour efficiency of 1.5, 0.6 and 0.6 min/calf/day. Labour efficiency on young bull farms (n=101) purchasing calves at median ages 21, 61, 121 and 180 days was 0.76, 0.94, 0.64 and 0.69 min/bull/day, respectively. No significant difference was found in labour efficiency between the four different finishing models on young bull farms. A possibility to improve labour efficiency by up to 63% was found when comparing the farms with the 25% highest and 25% lowest labour inputs. An effect of scale on labour input was found up to unit sizes of 550 red veal calves and 450 young bulls per year. The overall perceived physical strain was rated moderate exertion level. Cleaning tasks and handling of young bulls were rated with the highest physical strain. The prevalence of perceived musculoskeletal symptoms (MSD) was 51% and 65% in red veal and young bull farmers, respectively. MSD was most frequently reported in upper extremities and the back. Feeling stressed and worried, working in an unpleasant climate, high demands on the daily work pace and a high risk of injuries were reported by more than 20% of the 59 red veal and 98 young bull farmers surveyed. Work injuries were reported by 20% and 39% of red veal and young bull farmers, respectively. Swedish young bull and red veal producers with large, work-efficient farms were economically orientated, but just as highly motivated by several intrinsic values as those on small farms, indicating an unprecedented degree of multidimensionality. Identified measures of improvement of labour input and physical working conditions mainly related to frequently performed work tasks, animal handling, fragmentation of farm, and to improved facilities in the quarantine houses where proportion of labour input and the level of physical strain was typically high.


calf; work load; work efficiency; questionnaire; rating scale; hazard

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2013, number: 2013:69
ISBN: 978-91-576-7876-8, eISBN: 978-91-576-7877-5
Publisher: Department of of Biosystems and Technology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Bostad, Elise
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Biosystems and Technology (VH), general

UKÄ Subject classification

Agricultural Occupational Health and Safety
Other Agricultural Sciences not elsewhere specified

URI (permanent link to this page)