The live-weight gain (LWG) and efficiency of food utilization of purebred British Friesian and Canadian Holstein steers and of crossbred steers out of British Friesian dams by Charolais, Hereford, Limousin, Lincoln Red, Simmental, South Devon and Sussex sires were examined in two beef production systems. One was similar to the commercial 18-month grass/cereal system (16-month) and the other to a commercial 2-year system (24-month). The cattle were serially slaughtered at three levels of fatness covering the commercial range and determined by the use of the Scanogram ultrasonic machine. The trial extended over 4 years and involved a total of 650 cattle. Data for the two production systems were analysed separately. Changes in growth performance were examined relative to estimated carcass subcutaneous fat content (g/kg; SFC) and sire breed crosses compared at the mean fatness level within system: 65 g/kg SFe for 16-month and 74 g/kg SFe for 24-month.
Sire breed differences were not detected (P > 0·05) in the regressions on SFe of age and live weight at slaughter, overall daily LWG and overall efficiency of weight gain. Pooled within sire breed, live at slaughter and age at slaughter increased by 2·5 kg and 2·8 days (16-month) and 2·2 kg and 2·1 days (24-month) for each g/kg increase in SFe.
Charolais crosses and Canadian Holsteins were heaviest at equal SFC in both systems, but the latter were 63 days older (16-month) and 42 days older (24-month): Hereford, Lincoln Red and Sussex crosses were lightest and among the youngest in both systems.
Sire breed crosses differed significantly in daily LWG: Charolais crosses grew fastest in both systems; the relative growth rate of other sire breed crosses was less consistent between the two although the Hereford crosses and British Friesians grew slowly in both systems. Overall efficiency of LWG (g gain per kg digestible organic matter intake) ranged from 164 to 205 (16-month) and 146 to 171 (24-month). Canadian Holsteins and British Friesians had the lowest efficiency of LWG in both systems of production; differences between the other breeds were not statistically significant (P > 0·05).