2010 Annual Report
Objective 1. Produce a 12-month supply of pasture-based beef by expanding the harvest window with retention of acceptable meat quality.
Subobjective 1.1. Evaluate the use of variation in frame scores of sire and dams and different creep grazing systems to expand the harvest window of grass-fed beef.
Subobjective 1.2.3. Alternative forage species and nitrogen sources.
Objective 2. Develop criteria for pasture raised beef that define “the window of acceptability”.
Subobjective 2.1. Quantify performance efficiency of cattle in pasture-based forage systems.
Subobjective 2.1.1. Estimate residual feed intake (RFI) of forage-fed cattle. Subobjective 2.1.2. Quantify actual intake of grazing cattle during finishing. Subobjective 2.1.5. Identify life cycle risk factors relevant to meat quality.
Subobjective 2.2. Define “window of acceptability” by relating animal production systems, meat quality and consumer parameters.
Objective 3. Identify management and nutritional strategies for minimizing weaning stress in calves.
Subobjective 3.1. Evaluate ability of high quality forage to minimize post weaning weight gain.
Subobjective 3.2. Evaluate the effect of alternative weaning techniques on cattle behavior and stress markers.
Subobjective 3.3. Characterize relationship between cattle behavior and carcass quality.
Objective 4. Develop tools for pasture-based beef producers to assess and manage risk.
Subobjective 4.1. Establish the impact of continuous-use pasture on disease incidence and weight gain of young stock.
Experiments will be conducted in the field on cow-calf production systems, weaning systems, and backgrounding systems. Risk reduction in pasture-based livestock production will be evaluated relative to forage species and nitrogen sources. Potential production losses from internal parasites on continuous-use pastures will be estimated from data under controlled conditions. Economic data from ethnic demand for pasture-finished products will be evaluated. Weaned calves will be provided to the other cooperators for completion of their phases of the project.
Cattle may express stress or anxiety behaviors during routine management. These behaviors have been associated with reduced animal performance and decreased profitability. Our objectives were to develop reliable measures of calf behavior, and to determine whether these measures change under repeated handling. Forty heifers post-weaning were randomly assigned to either a regular or irregular measurement protocol. Heifers were routinely handled at three recording periods, one month apart. In the regular measurement protocol, heifers were handled on three consecutive days each period; with the irregular protocol, they were handled just once. A series of subjective behavioral scores and objective physiological measures were collected. With repeated handling, signs of stress and anxiety were reduced. Chute scores indicated anxiety and could be quickly assessed. A similar set of behavioral and physiologic measures were collected on steers post-weaning. These will be continued during the stockering/finishing phases, and used to characterize the relationships among behaviors post-weaning with growth and carcass attributes at harvest. The database manager position was filled in May 2010. A project server, including security, backup and surge protection, was set-up. Database software was installed and tested (Microsoft SQL Server). The manager’s focus in FY-11 will be to develop the scheme for a project-wide database, and establish and implement procedures for data entry and validation. Monitoring was done through email communication.