Guest Article: Corn or Barley for Feeding Steers?
Table of Contents
The influence of grain type (barley versus corn) on carcass merit and meat quality has become an important issue for Ontario cattle producers. While beef production in Ontario is based on corn, barley is the primary feed grain energy source in Western Canada. Several years ago the Ontario Cattle Feeders Association initiated an "Ontario Corn Fed" beef program. The primary goal for the program is to increase the quality, consistency and market share for Ontario "corn fed" beef. Previous trial comparisons, for finishing cattle, have primarily evaluated dietary differences in growth performance and carcass merit, while measurements of meat quality and taste have been less extensively evaluated.
Unfortunately, beef cattle prices have been greatly reduced due to an isolated case of BSE in Canada. Research is therefore needed that explores ways of reducing production costs while ensuring superior eating quality of beef. The primary objective for this trial was to evaluate the effects of grain source (barley versus corn), corn silage feeding level and market weight endpoint on measurements of steer performance, carcass merit and meat quality.
Cattle were fed either rolled barley or rolled corn, with either a high level (50%) or low level (15%) of corn silage, giving a total of 4 different diets. (see Table 1)
Two trials were conducted, one with 92 Angus steers and the other with 108 Charolais steers. Cattle were fed on a free choice basis with the individual feed intake of each steer measured using a Calan Gate feeding system. Angus cattle were marketed after achieving an assigned body weight of either 550 kg (1210 lbs) or 600kg (1320 lbs) while Charolais cattle were marketed at 600kg (1320 lbs), 650kg (1430 lbs) or 700kg (1540 lbs).
Relevance To The Ontario Industry
The Alberta cattle industry runs a very effective marketing campaign touting the superiority of grain-fed beef from Alberta. While Alberta feedlots use barley as the predominant feed grain, corn will also be extensively fed depending on cost spreads between barley and corn. The present study demonstrated that there were few differences in growth performance (gains, intakes, feed efficiency), carcass traits (lean yield, rib eye area, marbling), and eating quality (tenderness, juiciness, flavor) between feeding corn or barley. Similar results were also achieved when 15 or 50% silage [high (70%) or low (35%) grain] diets were compared. The present findings indicate that high grain feeding may not be needed to produce a very acceptable beef eating experience for the consumer.
Table 2. Effects of grain source and corn silage feeding level on Charolais steer growth performance, feed intake, carcass and meat quality.
a,b indicates a significant trait difference between rolled
barley and corn.
Table 3. Effects of market weight endpoint on Charolais steer growth performance, feed intake, carcass and meat quality.
a,b,c indicates significant trait differences between market weight endpoints.
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