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The effects of grain treatment, grain feed level and grass silage feed value on the performance of and meat quality from, finishing beef cattle

  • T. W. J. Keady (a1) (a2) (a3), F. O. Lively (a1), D. J. Kilpatrick (a2) (a3) and B. W. Moss (a2) (a3)

Abstract

A completely randomised design study involving 132 continental crossbred beef steers was undertaken to evaluate the effects of method of grain treatment and feed level, and grass silage feed value on animal performance, carcass characteristics and meat quality of beef cattle. Winter wheat was harvested and the grain was stored either ensiled crimped and treated with 4.5 l/t of a proprietary acid-based additive (crimped), ensiled whole and treated with 20 kg feed-grade urea per t (urea) or stored conventionally in an open bin treated with 3 l propionic acid per t. Two grass silages, of contrasting feed value (L and H) were ensiled. For the conventional, crimped and urea treatments, grain dry matter (DM) concentrations were 802, 658 and 640 g/kg, respectively. For the L- and H-feed value silages, DM concentrations were 192 and 240 g/kg and D values were 671 and 730 g/kg DM, respectively. The silages were offered as the sole forage supplemented with either conventional, crimped or urea-treated grain-based concentrate at either 3.5 or 6.0 kg DM per steer per day. The grain supplement consisted of 850 and 150 g/kg DM of grain and citrus pulp, respectively. For the conventional, urea and crimped treatments, DM intakes were 8.85, 9.43 and 9.04 kg/day (standard error (s.e.) = 0.129); estimated carcass gains were 0.60, 0.55 and 0.61 kg/day (s.e. = 0.020), respectively. For the low- and high- feed value grass silages, estimated carcass gains were 0.56 and 0.61 kg/day (s.e. = 0.014), respectively. For the low and high grain feed levels, estimated carcass gains were 0.56 and 0.61 kg/day, respectively. Grain treatment, grain feed level or silage feed value did not alter (P > 0.05) meat quality, lean colour or fat colour. There were significant silage feed value × grain feed level interactions (P < 0.05) for final live weight (LW) and daily live-weight gain (DLWG). Increasing grain feed level increased final LW and DLWG when offered with the low-feed value silage, however, grain feed level had no effect on final LW or DLWG when offered with the high-feed value silage. It is concluded that urea treatment of grain increased silage intake and feed conversion ratio (kg DM intake per kg carcass) and tended to decrease carcass gain. Crimping provides a biologically equally effective method to store grain as conventional methods. Improving grass silage feed value had a greater impact on animal performance than increasing grain feed level by 2.4 kg DM per day.

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