Alternative Beef Production Systems and Carcass Quality

Background and Methodology
The use of ionophores and hormonal implants is common in North American Feedlots. Consumer surveys have shown that use of growth promotants in beef production is considered a risk for human health. “Natural” beef produced without the use of ionophores and hormonal implants could be an alternative production system to satisfy consumer demand. Other reported cited in this work showed that cattle targeted for niche markets requiring the abandonment of hormonal implants and antimicrobials would need to gain a price premium of $44 US to be competitive with conventional beef. This study was conducted to evaluate forage vs. grain finishing with or without the use of growth promotants on growth performance, cost of production, and carcass characteristics. Forty Angus-cross steers were used to evaluate five beef cattle management regimes for their effect on growth performance, carcass characteristics, and cost of production.

Overall, average daily gain (ADG) for animals treated with growth promotants or fed supplementary diet was increased (P<0.01) by 25 and 21% respectively, compared with steers reared on grass silage alone. Except for hot carcass weight (HCW), (P<0.01) the use of growth promotants did not affect carcass measurements. Increasing the proportion of barley in the diet of steers finished on forage produced a heavier HCW (P<0.01) and a greater (P<0.01) quality grade. Because of their lower HCW and quality grade, cattle targeted for a forage-fed, nonimplanted beef market would need to gain a 16% premium to be economically competitive with cattle finished conventionally.

Berthiaune, R., Mandell, I., Faucitana, L., & Lafrenière, C. (2005). Comparison of alternative beef production systems based on forage finishing or grain-forage diets with or without growth promotants: 1. Feedlot performance, carcass quality, and production costs. J. Anim. Sci. 84:2168-2177.