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Title: WINTER GAIN ON ANIMAL PERFORMANCE AND CARCASS CHARACTERISTICS OF PASTURE-FINISHED STEERS

Author
item Neel, James - Jim
item Clapham, William
item Fontenot, Joseph
item Felton, Eugene

Submitted to: American Forage and Grassland Council Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/15/2004
Publication Date: 4/15/2004
Citation: Neel, J.P., Clapham, W.M., Fontenot, J.P., Felton, E.E. 2004. Winter gain on animal performance and carcass characteristics of pasture-finished steers. In: Cassida, K.A. (editor). American Forage and Grassland Council Conference Proceedings, Roanoke, VA. 13:361-365.

Interpretive Summary: Demand for high quality food products increased in recent years. Health conscious consumers include lean beef products in their diets and grass-fed beef is imported to the United States to satisfy this demand. Lean beef is perceived as being more healthful (lean) and environmentally friendly from a production standpoint (low input production systems). Pasture finished beef produced in this country has the potential to provide income generating opportunities for Appalachian farmers and satisfy some of the demand for a lean beef product from environmentally friendly production systems. One of the main problems in the beef industry today is the ability to produce a consistent product. Determining animal performance in various stages of the production stream (e.g., cow-calf, winter-feeding, stocker) prior to pasture finishing, would be useful in planning pasture-finished beef programs. It would also help ensure production of a consistent product. A multi-year, multi-location experiment is under way to evaluate the effect of winterfeeding regimes on subsequent pasture performance and meat quality characteristics. Animals that gained more weight during the winter period, had a lower rate of gain through the finish period that those that gained the least. Although more information is needed regarding consumer acceptance, it appears that winter performance can vary greatly without impacting meat quality.

Technical Abstract: Demand for high quality food products from a health conscious consumer base includes lean beef. A large quantity of grass-fed lean beef is imported into the United States. Past research has shown high quality, consumer acceptable, pasture-finished beef can be produced in the U.S, but actual production systems that deliver a consistent product are limited. Animal performance during various phases of the production stream may influence consumer acceptance of pasture-finished beef, and increased knowledge is needed to plan pasture-finished beef production systems. An experiment is under way to evaluate the influence of performance during the winter feeding phase on subsequent performance and carcass characteristics of pasture-finished cattle. Thirty-six steers, born in spring, were randomly allotted to three winter treatments designed to produce animal average daily gain (ADG) of 0.5(L), 1.0(M) or 1.5(H) lb d-1. Animals were harvested following pasture finishing (approximately 18 mos of age). Actual winter period ADG for the treatments were 0.43, 0.79 and 1.57 lb respectively. Overall finish period ADG was influenced (P< 0.01) by winter treatment with means being 2.2, 1.9 and 1.6 lb d-1 respectively. Finishing final weight (FW), carcass weight (CW), dressing percentage (DP), yield grade (YG), rib fat (RF), ribeye area (REA), kidney, pelvic and heart fat (KPH) and quality grade (QG) were not influenced by winter treatment. Our findings indicate stocker performance during winter-feeding can vary greatly without influencing key carcass attributes.