Warm-season annual forages in forage-finishing beef systems: II. Animal performance and carcass characteristics

Deidre D. Harmon, Dennis W. Hancock, R. Lawton Stewart, Jenna L. Lacey, Robert W. McKee, John D. Hale, Chevise L. Thomas, Elyse Ford, Jacob R. Segers, Chris D. Teutsch, Alexander M. Stelzleni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


More information on expected animal performance and carcass traits of forage-finished steers grazing warm-season annual forages is needed. To achieve this objective, a grazing trial was conducted in 2014, 2015, and 2016 (70, 63, and 56 d, respectively), with variation in length of grazing based on forage availability. Sixteen pastures (0.81 ha) were assigned to 1 of 4 forage treatments in a randomized complete block design. Forage treatments were brown midrib sorghum × sudangrass (BMR; Sorghum bicolor var. bicolor*bicolor var. sudanense), sorghum × sudangrass (SS), pearl millet [PM; Pennisetum glaucum (L.)R.Br.], or pearl millet planted with crabgrass [PMCG; Digitaria sanguinalis (L.) Scop.]. Each year, British-cross beef steers (n = 32; 3 y average: 429 ± 22 kg) were stratified by weight and randomly assigned to 1 of the 16 pastures for forage finishing. Each pasture was subdivided into two 0.405-ha paddocks for rotational stocking and a put-and-take stocking method was used to maintain a forage allowance of 116 kg forage dry matter/100 kg body weight (BW). Shrunk body weight and ultrasonically measured carcass composition were recorded at the initiation, middle, and end of each grazing season. Steers were harvested once forage availability became limited and chilled carcasses (24 h) were evaluated for yield grade and quality grade attributes. Statistical analysis was conducted using the GLIMMIX procedure in SAS 9.4 (Cary, NC) with main effects of treatment, year, and the interaction. Pasture and block were considered random effects while date was assessed as a main effect when applicable. Daily stocking densities were greater (P < 0.04) for SS than PMCG in the first 20 d of 2014 and 2015. Forage treatment did not affect (P > 0.17) total gain, total average daily gain, or body weight at any time point. Ultrasound composition traits of loin muscle area, 12th rib fat thickness, intramuscular fat, and rump fat were impacted (P < 0.01) by scanning date. No differences (P > 0.08) in forage treatments were observed for carcass characteristics associated with yield grade or quality grade. The findings suggest that forage-finished cattle during the summer months on BMR, SS, PM, and PMCG perform similarly, giving producers the option to use the most economical or practical forage type for their production system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)400-410
Number of pages11
JournalTranslational Animal Science
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society of Animal Science.


  • Carcass
  • Forage-finished beef
  • Performance
  • Summer annuals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • General Veterinary


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