Performance, carcass, and meat characteristics of beef steers finished on 2 different forages or on a high-concentrate diet

G. Scaglia, J. P. Fontenot, W. S. Swecker, B. A. Corl, S. K. Duckett, H. T. Boland, R. Smith, A. O. Abaye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


In response to potential changes in consumer demand, the utility of different forage-based systems as finishing programs should be evaluated. Performance and carcass characteristics of yearling steers that grazed monocultures of endophyte-free tall fescue or alfalfa or fed a high-concentrate (feedlot) diet were evaluated. Steers fed a feedlot diet gained more and reached a final endpoint sooner than those grazing tall fescue or alfalfa. Forages were not limiting in terms of mass produced and nutritive value. Despite the greater nutritive value of alfalfa compared with tall fescue, no differences in performance and hence productivity per unit of land were detected. No difference (P > 0.05) in ADG was detected between steers grazing (alfalfa and tall fescue, 0.93 and 0.98 kg, respectively) when compared with those in the feedlot or finished in drylot (1.32 kg). Beef produced on a forage-based diet was leaner and had acceptable organoleptic characteristics. Backfat and ribeye area were greater (P < 0.05) in the carcasses of steers that grazed alfalfa compared with fescue (7.6 vs. 4.0 mm and 66.7 vs. 57.5 cm2, respectively). However, the fat was more yellow (P < 0.05) than the fat of those on tall fescue, indicating a possible effect of the carotenoids that might be present in greater concentration in alfalfa. Forage-fed beef is a niche market that is growing rapidly in the United States. Forage finishing steers on tall fescue or alfalfa is a viable alternative for beef cattle producers interested in meeting the demand for this product.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-203
Number of pages10
JournalProfessional Animal Scientist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2012

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2012 American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists.


  • Alfalfa
  • Beef carcass
  • Forage-fed beef
  • Steer
  • Tall fescue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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