High-Moisture Corn Wins Again
Univ. of Nebraska researchers used 475 crossbred yearling steers (837 lb) to evaluate the effects of five different commercially available corn hybrids and two processing methods on finishing performance and carcass traits. Four of the hybrids were obtained from Golden Harvest Seeds Co., Waterloo, NE, and one from Pioneer Hybrids, Johnston, IA. Processing methods were high-moisture corn (HMC) and dry-rolled corn (DRC). Corn hybrid had no statistically significant effect on avg. daily gain (ADG) or dry matter intake (DMI), but did have a minor influence on feed/gain. Carcass traits did not differ among corn hybrids. Steers fed HMC were significantly lower in DMI and had improved feed/gain (6.17 vs. 6.49) than those fed DRC, but did not differ in ADG. Carcasses from steers fed HMC had significantly greater fat thickness than carcasses from steers fed DRC, but there were no other differences in carcass traits.
The authors concluded these results agree with numerous other studies that show HMC is an effective way to improve feed conversion compared to DRC (Harrelson et al. 2008. Univ. of Nebraska Beef Cattle Report).
Feedlot Profitability Improved by Ultrasound Sorting
The objective of this Kansas State Univ. experiment was to evaluate the potential for increasing profitability by sorting feedlot cattle at re-implant time using ultrasound technology. Steers were scanned and assigned to one of four system-assigned test groups plus a control group. Initial value was based on live weight at time of scanning. The four test groups were marketed based on days on feed projected by the sorting system. Profit was defined as carcass value minus initial steer value, feed, implant, and scanning costs.
Results showed that there was substantial monetary value from sorting. Average profit per head for sorted steers was $42 compared to $19.07 for control steers. The authors concluded that sorting feedlot cattle into uniform marketing groups at re-implant time using ultrasound technology is a cost-effective tool that can predict future carcass merit and improve profitability (Garmyn, A. 2007. Kansas State Univ. Beef Research Highlights).
Arrival Reduced Respiratory Disease and Improved Performance
Univ. of Nebraska researchers conducted a clinical trial in which 842 steer calves were assigned to either one of two treatments on arrival at the feedlot: 1) Control; or 2) Injection on arrival with the long-acting antibiotic, Excede (ceftiofur crystalline free acid, Pfizer Animal Health). Data were collected during the first 32 days of the feedlot receiving period. Following is a summary of animal performance.
As shown in the table, avg. daily gain was 8 per cent greater for Excede cattle than for Controls (P=0.02), and feed/gain was numerically improved (P=0.07) for the steers receiving Excede. Incidence of bovine respiratory disease (BRD) was substantially reduced in steers that received Excede (4.4 vs. 12.5%). The authors concluded that treatment with Excede on arrival in the feedlot reduced the incidence of BRD by 64 per cent, and also improved avg. daily gain 8 per cent during the receiving period compared to no treatment (Benton et al. 2008. Univ. of Nebraska Beef Cattle Report).
Factors Affecting Beef Flavour
Dr. Daryl Tatum, Colorado State University animal scientist, recently conducted an extensive review of research on factors that affect beef flavour. Following is his summary of key points for producing consistently flavourful beef.
Production/management factors that influence beef flavour do so primarily via effect on amount and composition of fat.
Beef flavour desirability increases as intramuscular fat (marbling) increases. Marbling scores of Modest or greater provide the greatest assurance of desirable beef flavour characteristics.
If the goal is to consistently produce beef with exemplary flavour, then management practices that have been shown to reduce marbling deposition (e. g., ineffective animal health programs, delayed castration of male calves, restriction of dietary energy during the growing period, and aggressive use of growth enhancement technologies) should be avoided. In addition, selecting cattle for increased levels of marbling would, over time, result in favourable effects on beef flavour.
Grain feeding improves beef flavour. In general, grain-finishing periods of approximately 100 days or longer are effective for developing the desirable beef characteristics commonly associated with grain-fed beef. Moreover, corn-based diets seem to produce beef flavour characteristics preferred by most U. S. consumers.
Pre-slaughter stress, resulting in dark cutting beef, has a negative effect on beef flavour. Therefore, adoption of cattle handling practices that minimize pre-slaughter stress is important for assurance of a pleasurable eating experience.
The authors are animal scientists at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, U. S. A.