Beef Cattle Browsing – Feb. 2011

Editor: Dr. Stephen Hammack, Professor & Extension Beef Cattle Specialist Emeritus

This newsletter is published by Texas AgriLife Extension – Animal Science. Media, feel free to use this information as needed and cite Texas A&M University Beef Cattle Browsing Newsletter, Dr. Steve Hammack.

The United Kingdom’s Royal Society, similar to our National Academy of Sciences, has issued an updated 19-page guide, “Climate Change: a Summary of the Science.” The new version was issued after 43 of the society members complained that the opinions of skeptics had not been considered. The new conclusion is that there are “some uncertainties” and that “it is impossible to know for sure how the climate may change or what the possible effects might be.” Also, “there is very strong evidence to indicate that climate change has occurred on a wide range of different time scales from decades to million years.” The guide does state that, “human activity is one of the likely causes for climate change but now does so in a more considered way.” Finally, the guide agrees that, “the warming trend of the 1980s and 90s has come to a halt in the last 10 years.” (

Half-sib Angus heifers were finished on concentrate-based (CB) or forage-based (FB) rations. CB carcasses had greater fat thickness, higher numerical Yield Grades (lower leanness), and higher marbling. Steaks from CB had higher tenderness, greater beef flavor intensity, lower cowy/grassy flavor intensity, but higher painty/fishy flavor intensity. Overall, carcass and palatability traits favored concentrate-based rations. (Prof. Anim. Sci. 26:579; Oklahoma St. Univ.)

Data were summarized that had been collected over a 22-year period at 12 different research facilities in nine states. Preweaning, postweaning, and carcass traits were analyzed. Four types of sires were represented:

  • Bos indicus (Boran, Brahman, Gir, Indu-Brazil, Nellore, Sahiwal)
  • Bos indicus derivative (Beefmaster, Brangus, Gelbray, Santa Gertrudis, Simbrah)
  • Subtropically adapted, non Bos indicus (Bonsmara, Romosinuano, Senepol, Tuli)
  • Bos taurus (Angus, Charolais, Gelbvieh, Hereford, Red Poll)

Compared to Brahman, some of the other Bos indicus sires resulted in lighter birth weights and less calving difficulty but also lighter weaning, slaughter, and carcass weights. Calves sired by the subtropically-adapted, non-Bos indicus breeds tended to be lighter than Brahman at birth, weaning, and slaughter but also tended to be easier calved and higher in carcass merit, especially tenderness. Calves sired by the Bos taurus breeds, especially Angus and Hereford, tended to rank highest in marbling and tenderness.

The authors indicated the utility in the South and Southwest of the subtropically-adapted non-Bos indicus breeds as an alternative to Bos indicus, especially Brahman, will probably depend on their relative maternal ability and what price discounts, if any, occur through traditional marketing channels. That is, if crossbred females, by subtropically-adapted non-Bos indicus sires, produce as well as Brahman-crossbred females while their calves realize a higher market price, they may have a place. (Prof. Anim. Sci. 26:451; Louisiana St. Univ., Mississippi St. Univ., Texas A&M Univ., Univ. of Arkansas, Univ. of Florida, Univ. of Georgia, Univ. of Kentucky, USDA)

The U. S. Meat Export Federation has announced that tonnage of beef exports for 2010 increased 19% over 2009. Also, the value of these exports was over $ 4 billion, the highest ever recorded. Value of pork exports also increased, and is about 17% higher than that for beef. (, downloaded 2/14/11)

The term “corn coproducts” has come into use for some of the materials resulting from ethanol production that can be used for livestock feed. Most of the use of such materials is for finishing cattle. Two research trails were conducted to evaluate some of these materials as supplements for maintaining dry, pregnant beef cows fed residue from harvested corn, which contained 3%-4% Crude Protein. Coproducts included 27%-30% CP distillers dried grain with solubles (DDGS), 13% CP corn bran, and 40% CP high-protein distillers dried grains. Comparisons were made using free-choice alfalfa-mixed hay (17%-20% CP)

Across both trials, cows on hay lost more weight (66 lb in both trials) than the various coproduct groups (7lb to 46 lb). But there was no difference in subsequent reproduction, milk production, or calf ADG. Daily per head feed costs were higher for the free-choice hay controls. In areas where coproducts are readily and locally available, they may be viable alternatives to traditional supplements for beef cow herds, possibly resulting in an economic advantage over producers in other areas. (Prof. Anim. Sci. 26:356; Univ. of Illinois)

In a study involving Brahman cattle, four calpain-system gene markers for meat tenderness were evaluated for effects on production, carcass, and meat traits. The influence of the markers was additive, as the presence of four favorable markers had the highest effect on increasing tenderness. There was no effect of the markers on growth, efficiency, temperament, carcass characteristics, or other meat quality factors. The authors concluded that “calpain-system gene markers are suitable for use in marker-assisted selection to improve meat tenderness in Brahman cattle without negative effects on other production and carcass characteristics. (J. Animal Sci. 88:3047 and 3059; Univ. of New England -Australia, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Livestock Industries)

Over a three-year period, stocker calves averaging initial weights of 552 lb were either grazed full time on wheat pasture or grazed for 3 ½ days a week and confined to drylot for 3 ½ days. While in confinement, calves had free-choice grass hay and supplement. During the 120-day winter period, full-time grazing resulted in higher ADG. However, during the 50-day spring period ADG was reversed, resulting in no overall difference. Limiting access increased carrying capacity and gain/acre but the cost of hay and supplement resulted in higher profit for full-time grazing. Adequate dry grazing could reduce cost during the period when wheat pasture is not grazed. (Prof. Anim. Sci. 26:561; USDA-ARS, El Reno, Ok.)

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has announced that rinderpest, a disease that has been responsible for devastating effects on cattle production for thousands of years, has been eradicated. The last case worldwide was diagnosed in 2001. This is only the second viral disease that has been eradicated, the other being smallpox. Eradication was accomplished by a program of simple diagnostic tests and vaccination. Eradication was facilitated by the fact that the virus has only one strain and is genetically stable. Eliminating most other virus diseases will not be so easy. (

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