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Optimising growth paths of beef cattle in northern Australia for increased profitability

Project start date: 01 June 2007
Project end date: 28 February 2013
Publication date: 01 March 2014
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Grassfed cattle, Grainfed cattle
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This project investigated reducing slaughter age of northern cattle through modifications of growth paths using supplements or improved pasture. 

In a grazing trial at Swans Lagoon steers grazing native pasture were fed from weaning either at low-plane (urea only - Control) or with high-input molasses-based supplement (MUP) in either one or both dry seasons prior to slaughter.  A further group were finished on leucaena. 

Steers fed in only one dry season reached similar slaughter weight to those fed in both with 22% less supplement intake. 

Hormonal growth promotants (HGPs) given to half the steers continuously from weaning increased growth rate by 8% in most groups, and by 22% whilst steers grazed leucaena, and increased the net value added to steers despite impeding compliance with Meat Standards Australia Australia (MSA). 

An economic analysis showed that leucaena, but not high-input supplements, increased profitability - the use of improved forages, combined with manipulation of body composition and associated compensatory gain offer the most cost-effective options for reducing slaughter age. 

Associated pen-feeding studies established that young (8-12 mo) and older (30-33 mo) steers responded similarly (kg extra gain/kg supplement) to additional nutrients and that responses increased in order of MUP, barley/urea and cottonseed meal.

Studies indicated that the Australian feeding standards could not currently be relied upon to predict intake of grazing cattle in the tropics.

More information

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Primary researcher: University of Queensland