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.
|Number of pages||10|
|Journal||Professional Animal Scientist|
|State||Published - Apr 1 2012|
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This project was possible because of the support of the Virginia Agricul tural Council (Project # 457), the J. L. Pratt Foundation, and the regional initiative Pasture-Based Beef Systems for Appalachia, funded in part by USDA-ARS.
© 2012 American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists.
- Beef carcass
- Forage-fed beef
- Tall fescue
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Science
- Animal Science and Zoology