Effects of the proportions of high or medium digestibility grass silage and concentrates in the diet of beef cattle on liveweight gain, carcass composition and fatty acid composition of muscle

Steen, R.; Kilpatrick, D.; Porter, M.

Grass and forage science the journal of the British Grassland Society 57(3): 279-291


ISSN/ISBN: 0142-5242
DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2494.2002.00326.x
Accession: 003746157

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An experiment was carried out over 2 years to evaluate the effects of increasing the proportion of cereal-based concentrates in diets containing high-digestibility and conventional medium-digestibility grass silages on the dry-matter (DM) intake, liveweight gain and carcass composition of beef cattle, and to examine the effects of grazed grass and the ratio of grass silage:concentrates in the diet on the fatty acid composition of selected muscle tissues. Late-maturing steers (n = 231) were offered diets based on high-digestibility (HD) (0.743 digestible organic matter (DOM) in DM) or medium-digestibility (MD) (0.643 DOM in DM) grass silages supplemented with barley/soyabean meal-based concentrates. The concentrates constituted 0.20, 0.40, 0.60 and 0.80 of total DM of the diets, which were offered ad libitum (AL). The two diets, which contained 0.80 concentrates, were also offered at 0.80 of AL intake. A further group of fourteen animals were given the medium-digestibility silage only for 5 months and then grazed perennial ryegrass pastures for a further 5 months (silage/pasture treatment). For the diets containing HD silage and 0.20, 0.40, 0.60 and 0.80 concentrate, and 0.80 concentrate at 0.8 of AL intake, the DM intakes were 9.4, 10.2, 10.4, 10.2 and 8.1 (s.e. 0.16) kg d(-1), respectively, and daily carcass gains were 0.67, 0.78, 0.77, 0.79 and 0.62 (s.e. 0.029) kg d(-1), respectively; for those containing MD silage and 0.20, 0.40, 0.60 and 0.80 concentrate, and 0.80 concentrate at 0.8 of AL, the DM intakes were 8.2, 9.3, 10.1, 10.1 and 8.0 (s.e. 0.16) kg d(-1), respectively, and daily carcass gains were 0.38, 0.48, 0.64, 0.77 and 0.56 (s.e. 0.029) kg d(-1) respectively. Increasing the proportion of concentrates in silage-based diets decreased the concentration of omega-3 (omega-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) (P < 0.001) and increased the concentration of omega-6 PUFA (P < 0.001) in muscle. Cattle on the silage/pasture treatment had the highest concentration of omega-3 PUFA in muscle (51 g kg(-1) lipid), this value being over three times that for animals given diets containing MD silage and 0.80 concentrate in the diet. These results demonstrate the potential of HD silage made from perennial ryegrass relative to high concentrate diets. The consumption of pasture-finished beef could make a significant contribution towards increasing the intake of omega-3 PUFA in the human diet.