The effects of level of feed intake and diet composition during a winter store period on the subsequent performance and carcass characteristics of beef cattle fed grass
This study investigated the hypothesis that cattle fed to produce a lean carcass during a winter restriction period will subsequently grow faster and remain leaner than fatter steers during the summer, exploiting cheap grazed grass. Three studies were carried out; in the first study steers were restricted at three levels of growth (300, 600 and 900 g/day) during winter and turned out to graze grass during summer. At each level of growth during winter steers were fed on one of two diets aimed at producing steers of either a lean or fat carcass composition. At the end of the winter restriction period differences in lean composition were observed at the 300 and 600 g/day growth rates. Steers were slaughtered when they attained the target slaughter weight at the end of summer; but there was no difference between treatments in meat quality characteristics or fat composition. Liveweight gain during the summer period was inversely correlated to winter liveweight gain. Two further studies were carried out to assess the effect of altering carcass composition during winter, fed to a predicted growth rate of 600g/day to investigate the underlying physiological and endocrinological mechanism regulating the growth characteristics. In the first study at the end of winter steers that were fatter had higher glucose and insulin concentrations. No differences between diet treatments were detected in muscle protein synthesis or breakdown. At the end of the winter in the second experiment there were no differences in carcass composition, metabolite or hormone profiles between treatments. For both studies, at the end of summer, steers on different dietary treatments had similar carcass compositions and metabolic parameters. It was concluded that by altering the diet of steers during a winter restriction period the composition of carcass gain can be manipulated. Since steers altered the deposition of carcass protein and fat during the subsequent summer period at grass resulting in similar body compositions at slaughter it was deduced the that composition of steers at the end of winter remains unimportant. Reductions in beef production costs may be attained by restricting the growth rates during winter when commercial feeds are expensive.