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Putting Cattle Out to Pasture Produces Quality Beef

By Tara Weaver
June 25, 1998

Feeding cattle more grass still produces market-ready animals with high-quality beef, according to results of a recent study at the Agricultural Research Service.

Scientists at the ARS Grazinglands Research Laboratory in El Reno, Okla., compared the performance of cattle from similar herds finished for market on grass with limited grain versus those fed a diet high in grain--the traditional feedlot practice.

In a 3-year study, ARS animal nutritionists William A. Phillips and Samuel W. Coleman finished cattle using wheat pasture and perennial grass pastures, such as Old World Bluestem. A high-energy supplement composed mostly of corn was provided in a covered feeder to give additional energy for fattening. The study showed beef cattle finish as efficiently on grass pastures with the supplement as they would on a mostly grain diet.

Less grain and more pasture means lower production costs for producers. Under the grain- on-grass system, feed savings were around $25 per animal. With four animals per acre, the producer’s grass pasture is worth $100 per acre for finishing cattle--a significant boost over traditional uses for the same grass.

Cattle finished in the pasture versus those finished in feedlots have about the same end weight, but are about 3 percent less fat. Cattle finished under either system would bring the producer the same amount of money, but production costs are lower under the grain-on- grass system, according to Coleman.

An article on this research appears in the June issue of Agricultural Research magazine. The story is also on the World Wide Web at:


Scientific contacts: William A. Phillips and Samuel W. Coleman, ARS Grazinglands Research Laboratory, El Reno, Okla.; phone (405) 262-5291, fax (405) 262-0133,,

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