Farm Ireland

Tuesday 16 October 2018

Continental bulls slaughtered off grass only fail to meet fat cover requirements - Research

Charolais bulls for finishing at 16 months on John Power’s farm in Clonea, Co Waterford
Charolais bulls for finishing at 16 months on John Power’s farm in Clonea, Co Waterford
FarmIreland Team

FarmIreland Team

New research at Teagasc Grange has shown that bulls slaughtered of grass only fail to achieve current fat cover requirements of meat processors.

Detailing the research, Aidan Moloney of Teagasc Grange said bulls grow faster than steers but are more aggressive and stress sensitive, which can result in a dark undesirable meat colour.

At pasture, he there is a greater risk of finishing bulls producing darker meat compared to bulls finished indoors.

Teagasc Grange researchers fed 13-month-old continental bulls of 425kg liveweight three different diets:

(a) 200 days at grass;

(b) 100 days at grass and then concentrate ad lib and grass silage indoors for 100 days; and,

(c) 200 days indoors fed grass silage and concentrate ad lib.

The pastures the bulls grazed were perennial ryegrass. When the study was completed, all bulls were slaughtered at 19 months of age. They were transported in their grazing groups directly to a commercial abattoir for slaughter.

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The bulls in Group C that were fed indoors for the 200 days had the heaviest carcasses (437kg), the bulls in Group B that were housed for 100 days after being grazed for 100 days were the next heaviest (399kg), and the bulls in Group A that were grazed for the full 200 days produced the lightest carcass weights (364kg).

The high-priced beef markets require carcass specification levels of 2+ or better for fat cover.

Moloney said carcass fats were lowest for the grazed bulls (Group A) at 2=, while Groups B and C had adequate levels of fat cover (3-, 3+).

"All muscle pH values were within the normal pH range (i.e., 5.4-5.8) indicating that bulls did not experience pre-slaughter stress and no carcasses were deemed “dark cutters” by abattoir personnel.

"This study shows that muscle (meat) colour was satisfactory from continental bulls slaughtered off grass only, but that fat covers on these carcasses would not meet the current requirements of premium markets for bull beef," he said.

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