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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Lexington, Kentucky » Forage-animal Production Research » Research » Research Project #431509

Research Project: Marketability and Management Approaches for Adding Value to Cull Cows for Local Production of Ground Beef

Location: Forage-animal Production Research

Project Number: 5042-32630-003-04-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 15, 2016
End Date: Sep 14, 2018

The ARS and Cooperator will form a multidiscipline team to conduct a system research project that evaluates production efficiencies and conducts an economic analyses with the objectives to: 1. Measure and compare body weight gain and final body condition of cull cows under different management approaches to adding value (ARS). 2. Compare quality and quantity of retail product between cull cows harvested at time of purchase and those under the management approaches to add value (Cooperator). 3. Identification of the most cost effective and profitable approach to buying and adding value to cull cows for direct marketing of retail product (Cooperator).

The research will be conducted in Owen County, KY. Separate groups of open cull cows will be used in the fall and spring for a 2-year period. Each group will have 60 cull cows that will be stratified by body weight into five groups and cows from each group will be randomly assigned to the 6 different treatments. One group will be harvested and ground beef processed soon after purchase. The other 5 groups will be assigned to the following treatments: 1) mixed perennial cool-season grasses, 2) mixtures of cool-season grasses and red clover, 3) mixed perennial cool-season grasses plus daily feeding of pelleted soy hulls at 0.75 percent of body weight in the fall and chemical seedhead suppression of toxic endophyte-infected tall fescue in the mixture and without soy hull feeding, or 4) drylot feeding of a concentrate –grass hay ration that will be offered free-choice for a group of purchased cull cows and for another group of cows culled from the Owen Co. herd of cows. Cows will not be treated with antibiotics. Cow groups will be on treatment for approximately 60 days before being harvested, from early May to Late June, and early September to late October in each of two years. Each treatment will be replicated twice. Each replicate of five cows will be rotationally stocked with a 3-paddock system (2 acres/paddock) to provide 7 days of grazing and 14 days of rest. Pastures without clovers will be fertilized with urea prior to grazing in the fall and spring to provide 70 lb N/acre for each application. All pastures will be fertilized with phosphate and potash as deemed necessary by soil tests. Pastures assigned the chemical seedhead suppression treatments will be treated with herbicide (2 oz./acre rate) between middle April and the first week of May. Cows will be weighed unshrunk, body condition scored, and ultrasound with an ultrasound instrument to measure back and rump fat depth at the start and conclusion of the experiment. Upon harvesting, hot carcass weight, percentage and quantity of retail product, and lean-to-fat ratios for individual carcasses will be measured. Amounts of soy hulls fed to pastured cows and feed consumed by dry-lot fed cows will be closely monitored and recorded for economic analysis. All input costs (mineral, fertilizer and planting clovers) for the pastured cows will be recorded. Cost of cull cows, gross return from retail of ground beef, and all input costs associated with pastures, drylot and animal health and care will be used to conduct an in-depth economic analysis for comparisons among management treatments. Cooperator will work directly with vendors in establishing suitable market outlets based on carcass quality grade and lean-to-fat ratios. Economic analyses will be conducted that will account for pasture and animal input costs and the variable retail prices associated with carcass quality grade and lean-to-fat ratios.