Effects of weaning age and diet on growth and carcass characteristics in steers.

Journal of animal science

PubMedID: 10907817

Fluharty FL, Loerch SC, Turner TB, Moeller SJ, Lowe GD. Effects of weaning age and diet on growth and carcass characteristics in steers. J Anim Sci. 2000;78(7):1759-67.
Two experiments were conducted to determine the effects of diet on growth of steers weaned at approximately 100 vs 205 d of age. In Exp. 1, a 2 x 2 x 2 factorial experiment was conducted using 78 Angus crossbred cow-calf pairs. The factors examined were age at weaning (early, at 103+/-3 d [EW] vs normal, at 203+/-3 d [NW]), feeding strategy (ad libitum vs postweaning programmed intake), and dietary CP concentration (100 vs 120% of NRC [1984] recommended levels). Early-weaned calves had a greater (P < .001) ADG than NW calves from 103 to 203 d and reached market weight at 385 d vs 418 d for NW calves (P < .001). Likewise, steers offered feed for ad libitum consumption reached market weight at 394 d, compared with 409 d for programmed-intake steers (P < .05). In Exp. 2, 64 Angus crossbred steers were either weaned at 93+/-3 d and fed one of four diets, weaned at 210+/-3 d without access to creep feed, or weaned at 210+/-3 d with access to creep feed for 60 d prior to weaning. Early-weaned calves were heavier (P < .01) than NW calves at 210 d if fed either 100 or 90% concentrate diets, and they had greater (P < .001) backfat thickness at 210 d but no difference (P > .10) in longissimus muscle area compared to EW calves fed a 60% concentrate diet. At slaughter, 80 to 100% of steers on all treatments graded low Choice or higher. Feeding high-concentrate diets to EW beef calves accelerated growth rate and fat deposition early in the feeding period and may be a way to provide young cattle for a high-quality beef market.