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Title: Wintering performance and how it affects carcass quality

item Neel, James - Jim
item Fontenot, Joseph
item Clapham, William
item Duckett, Susan
item Felton, Eugene
item Scaglia, Guillermo
item Bryan, William
item Lewis, Paul

Submitted to: National Grass-Fed Beef Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/31/2007
Publication Date: 2/28/2007
Citation: Neel, J.P., Fontenot, J.P., Clapham, W.M., Duckett, S.K., Felton, E.E., Scaglia, G., Bryan, W.B., Lewis, P.E. 2007. Wintering performance and how it affects carcass quality. In: Proceedings of 1st National Grass-Fed Beef Conference, February 28-March 2, 2007, Penn State University, Grantville, Pennsylvania. 2007 CDROM.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Environmental variation undoubtedly can have the most significant impact on livestock performance in forage based production systems. Fluctuations in temperature and precipitation influence herbage production and quality, maintenance requirements and intake. Producers of “forage system” products have much less control over animal diet and performance during it’s lifetime due to environment, harvest windows of grazed and stored herbage, and the inherent lower energy density of forage versus grain/forage diets. Knowledge regarding the impact of animal performance during critical phases of production on end product would have significant impact on planning capabilities and economic returns in all production systems. A multi-year, multi-institution research effort within the "Pasture-Based Beef Systems for Appalachia" research project was directed to study the impact of winter stocker growth rate on subsequent animal performance during finishing, and beef quality in forage- and feedlot-finished beef. The research consortium involves over 30 scientists and the following institutions: USDA-ARS, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, West Virginia University, Clemson University and the University of Georgia. Winter diets were formulated to achieve average daily gains (ADG) of 0.5(Low), 1.0 (Medium) or 1.5 (High) lb per day. Upon completion of the winter stocker period, animals were randomly assigned to either pasture or feedlot/concentrate finishing treatments. Animal performance during the winter stocker period clearly impacted finishing performance, carcass quality and beef production. Although compensatory gain was expressed during finishing, Winter stocker Low rates of gain cattle were never able to catch up to the High rate (projected 1.5 lb ADG) in terms of live body or carcass weight, when finished to an equal time endpoint. We found that carcass quality grade was sacrificed in the Low rate of gain treatment. Given that most pasture finished beef is not sold as a commodity product, this is not necessarily a negative unless it compromises product acceptance by the consumer. Cattle which perform at lower rates during winter may be able to improve carcass quantity and quality if finished for a longer period of time and that strategy could be useful to expand the harvest window and improve the distribution of product in time. Our recommendation is for a minimum ADG of 1.0 lb during the winter stocker period to maximize beef production and carcass quality during finishing.