Winter feeding grass-fed feeder cattle to finish using brown midrib sorghum sudan cytoplasm 6

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2006: $9,886.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Matching Federal Funds: $1,830.00
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $11,574.00
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Thomas Gallagher
Cornell Cooperative Extension

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: winter forage

    Proposal abstract:

    The market demand for grass finished beef has been growing steadily because of the many proven health benefits it has been shown to provide. Even with this increased demand and higher prices Northeast beef producers have not switched their production practices to meet this demand. The reasons most producers give for not raising grass-finished beef is the problem of winter feeding with slight to no weight gain and the inability to finish cattle at a choice quality grade. This means cattle may have to stay on the farm an extra six months to finish which virtually wipes out any profits from grass feeding. This project looks to teach beef producers how easily Brown Mid-Rib Sorghum Sudan can be grown with very low input using existing haying equipment on the farm. Following the growing and harvesting of the BMRSS we will demonstrate how this highly digestible feed can increase gains and finish cattle to choice grade during the winter months. We will also demonstrate the health benefits and eating qualities of grass-fed beef. If successful more Northeast cow/calf producers will be able to raise their calves to finish weight and grade utilizing existing resources on the farm enhancing profitability and sustainability.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Market demand for grass-finished beef far exceeds the current supply as demonstrated by the New England Livestock Alliance, which in 2003-2004 was unable to supply the market they were trying to serve in the Northeast. To meet this demand local beef producers must be able to finish cattle on a 100% forage diet in less than twenty four months of age. To meet market specifications, eighty percent of these cattle must grade high Select or higher. Locally producers who have been raising grass fed cattle have had to keep cattle on grass up to thirty months of age to reach acceptable carcass quality.

    The primary objective of the proposed research and demonstration project is to determine if winter feeding of high energy brown mid-rib Sorghum Sudangrass (BMRSS) Cytoplasm 6 type will supply the needed energy in the winter to produce the gains, and fat deposition equal to cattle finished on traditional corn based rations. Dr. R. Grant of Miner Institute pending publication in Journal of Dairy Sci) found BMRSS was an effective alternative to corn silage when fed at either 35 or 45% of the dietary dry matter to lactating dairy cows.

    1. The BMRSS will be grown according to best management practices. Two cuttings will be taken when the crop is three to four feet tall. The crop will be conditioned with intermeshing rubber rollers and laid in a wide swath for rapid drying. It will be raked into a windrow at seventy percent moisture, round baled and wrapped immediately. The bales will then be stored on a clean weed free gravel site adjacent to the feeding area.

    2. Cornell Complete Soil Analysis will be taken and analyzed before the planting of the BMRSS.

    3. Forage yield of each cutting will be determined by bale weight and number of bales.

    4. In Vitro forage quality analysis performed at the Dairy One Forage Lab will be completed on all forages to be fed to each group in the study.

    5. During the growing season of the crop, field observation will be taken in relation to plant growth and weeds, along with insect and disease problems.

    6. The feeder cattle will be raised utilizing best management practices with rations balanced using the Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System.

    7. Cattle to be used in this project will include Angus steers, and heifers born in the fall of 2005. Cattle will be placed in the two pens for feeding on September 15, 2006 and will be fed one of the two rations until they are determined to be ready for harvest in March of 2007.

    8. Each animal selected for the trial will be identified with an ear tag, individually weighed on scales at the farm and scanned with an ultrasound to determine ribeye area, back fat and intramuscular fat. Every attempt will be made to make the two pens as alike as possible with equal numbers of steers and heifers and the total cattle weight of each pen near equal.

    9. Animals in each pen will be weighed and body conditioned scored monthly to determine weight gain and fat deposition. Weighing will take place in the morning before feeding

    10. The control pen of cattle will receive the traditional finishing ration currently used on the farm consisting of corn silage, hay crop silage, high moisture shelled corn, soybean meal, and minerals. The test group will be fed BMRSS Cytoplasm 6 wrapped round bale silage, free choice in a round bale feeder with a mineralized salt block. Dry matter intake of each pen will be determined by weighing feed delivered to the pen less feed refusal which will be weighed.

    11. Animals will be scanned a second time with ultrasound just before harvest. At harvest carcass data (weight, backfat, ribeye area, and marbling score) will be collected along with a fat sample to determine the fatty acid profile including conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and Omega-3. A yield and quality grade will be given to each carcass.

    12. Following harvest of all of the animals in each pen, a comparison of all factors will be done comparing the test pen to the traditionally corn fed pen. Factors to be compared will be: dry matter intake per day; days on feed; percent choice quality grade in each pen; average fatty acid content of carcasses from each pen; average weight at finish; feed costs per pen; change in ribeye area; back fat and marbling by pen according to ultrasound scanning. All data will be interpreted and analyzed to assure accurate information is reported as a result of the project.

    13. A trained taste test panel of ten or more local meat market mangers will be utilized at the farm field day to compare tenderness, flavor, juiciness, and overall acceptance of cuts of meat from carcasses in each pen.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.