Teagasc details results on research into beef finishing methods
Beef bulls finished of grass will not achieve factory fat score specs, new research in Teagasc, Grange has shown.
Teagasc recently detailed research by Aidan Moloney, Mark McGee, Lara Moran and Edward O’Riordan of AGRIC in Teagasc Grange which examined carcass and meat quality in grass-based under-16 month suckler bulls finished using different methods.
Some beef markets require bulls to be slaughtered under 16 months of age, with a minimum carcass fat score of 2+ (6 on a 15 point scale). Bulls for these markets are usually finished indoors on high-concentrate rations.
However, the inclusion of grazed grass or grass silage in the diet would decrease the cost of production. The aim of the study was to evaluate lower-cost production systems in terms of bull performance and meat quality.
Spring-born, late-maturing breed suckler bulls (375kg) were offered grass silage ad libitum and 2kg concentrates per head daily, during the winter period.
They were then assigned to one of four experimental treatments until slaughter at an average of 15 months of age/group. Treatments were:
- ad libitum concentrates plus grass silage, indoors (AD);
- grass silage ad libitum plus 5kg of concentrate offered indoors (SC);
- grazed grass plus 50% of the dietary dry matter intake as concentrate (GC);
- grazed grass only (G)
After slaughter, carcasses were weighed and graded for conformation and fatness. After 48 hours, striploin colour and ultimate pH were measured.
Striploin steaks were used (after 14 day ageing) for instrumental texture (shear force) analysis and assessed for eating quality characteristics by trained assessors.
Carcass weight averaged:
- ad libitum concentrates plus grass silage, indoors (AD) - 358kg
- grass silage ad libitum plus 5kg of concentrate offered indoors (SC) - 315kg
- grazed grass plus 50% of the dietary dry matter intake as concentrate (GC) - 288kg
- grazed grass only (G) - 277kg
Fat scores averaged:
- ad libitum concentrates plus grass silage, indoors (AD) -7.2
- grass silage ad libitum plus 5kg of concentrate offered indoors (SC) - 6.0
- grazed grass plus 50% of the dietary dry matter intake as concentrate (GC) - 4.2
- grazed grass only (G) - 3.6
Meat from grazed animals was darker than that from indoors animals (32.1 v 35.8) although no differences were found in ultimate pH.
Shear force and sensory characteristics did not differ between striploin steaks from the AD or grazing bulls.
Striploin steaks from the SC group were rated most tender but the difference from the other diets was small.
While neither of the grazing groups achieved the current market specification for carcass fat score. However, the researchers said this was not reflected in inferior eating quality of beef.
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