Expanding the grazing season for sustainable year-round forage-finished beef production
Markets are expanding for animal products raised naturally on forage based systems with enhanced nutraceutical content. Currently there are limitations in providing a year-round supply of forage-finished beef, which limits marketing potentials and customer satisfaction. Forages for finishing beef cattle in summer months are limited and this research project will evaluate alternate forage crops (chicory, alfalfa, cowpea, pearl millet). Our research shows that finishing cattle on alfalfa and chicory produce higher gains. Carcass quality, tenderness, and consumer acceptability were all acceptable but higher for alfalfa, cowpea and pearl millet finished. On-farm demonstrations and presentations of this research has reached a large number of beef producers and the results have been well-received. Currently we are finishing the fat-soluble vitamins assays on the beef samples and preparing extension and research manuscripts for publication.
1) Examine potential forage systems to expand grazing seasons for year-around forage-finished beef production.
2) Determine the effect of these various warm season forages on beef carcass quality, composition and palatability
3) Determine the profitability of these forage systems as compared to traditional marketing schemes.
4) Implement on-farm plots and experiment station field days to demonstrate results and deliver information to farmers.
Angus-cross steers (n=60) were finished on alfalfa (AL), bermudagrass (BG), chicory (CH), cowpea (CO), and pearl millet (PM) during this two year grazing study. Ten 2-ha paddocks were blocked and assigned to forage species (2 reps per species). Each year, three tester steers were randomly assigned to paddocks. Grazing began when adequate forage growth for individual species was present. Put and take grazing techniques were utilized throughout the trial. Animal gains and herbage mass were monitored at 28 d intervals. Average daily gains were greater for AL and CH than BG, CO, and PM. Gains per hectare were highest for AL and lowest for CO. Dressing percentage was greater for AL and CO than BG, PM, and CH. After 14 d of postmortem aging, shear force values were lowest for AL and CO, and highest for CH and PM. Conjugated linoleic acid, cis-9, trans-11 isomer, and trans-11 vaccenic acid concentrations was greater in BG and PM than other treatments. Chicory and CO treatments had higher concentrations of linolenic acid than other treatments. Consumer panel results showed 37% of respondants preferred beef sirloin from AL treatment. Currently we are finishing the fat-soluble vitamins assays on the beef samples and preparing manuscripts for publication.
On-Farm Demonstration Plots:
Demonstration plot and field days were held at multiple sites and dates in 2008 and early 2009. These Extension programs have been delivered across the southeastern U.S. at multiple venues. In January 2008 a field tour of research plots for the South Carolina Cattleman’s Association was delivered with over 150 cattlemen attending. Research results have also been directly delivered to producers and educators at the 2008 Virginia Stocker Conference in Staunton VA, 2008 Alabama Stocker Conference in Auburn AL, 2008 Mountain Beef Cattle Field Day in Blairsville GA, 2008 Edisto Field Day in Blackville SC, 2008 Sunbelt Expo in Moultrie GA (to several hundred people), the 2008 Carolina Farm Stewardship Conference with over 100 attending the forage finishing break out session, and to the 2009 North Carolina Forage and Grassland Council annual winter meetings. In addition, multiple presentations have been delivered at the county level across South Carolina and demonstration plots have also been viewed by producers and county agents in Florida and South Carolina. The research information from this project was also highlighted in a national forage-fed beef conference held from February 12-13th of 2009 in Columbia SC. This conference hosted attendees from 8 states and featured speakers from Argentina, New Zealand, Colorado, Georgia and South Carolina.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
A major limitation to implementing forage fed beef in the Southeastern US is the seasonality of production. Fall, winter and spring finishing can be accomplished by grazing several perennial and annual cool season grasses and legumes. However, producing a summer supply of forage-finished beef is more difficult due to the lack of high quality warm season forages. Our research shows that finishing cattle on alfalfa and chicory produce higher gains. Carcass quality, tenderness, and consumer acceptability were all acceptable but higher for alfalfa, cowpea and pearl millet finished. On-farm demonstrations and presentations of this research has reached a large number of beef producers and the results have been well-received.
274 Poole Agricultural Center
Clemson, SC 29634
Office Phone: 8646563504