The objective of the experiment was to feed cattle on nothing but fermented forages and to observe their rate of growth, health, and finish quality at slaughter weight (about 1200 lbs).
In general, the industry average time to get a beef animal from birth to slaughter weight (about 1200 lbs) is 18-24 months.
In our study group, consisting of 5 animals, the cattle achieved slaughter weight in 15-17 months, with good composition, marbling, and fat cover. The basic data is shown in the table below.
|Average starting weight||550 lbs|
|Average finish weight||1250 lbs|
|Average hanging weight||740 lbs|
|Age range at finish||15-17 months|
|Feed conversion ratio||5.75 / 1|
The animals we used for our study can be best described as "certified bovine mutt." The calves were a mix of milking shorthorn, hereford, black angus, red angus, charolais, white park Brittish, and semental. The calves were about 7 months old when they were removed from their mothers and placed into a separate, clean corral with plenty of space to wander as they grew. Their diet consisted of fermented cover crop bales and fermented alfalfa; with some free-choice dry minerals they could lick up whenever they wanted.
One of our first observations was that the fermented group was calmer than the other cattle on the farm. They were more docile and readily accepted handling and petting as they ate. The non-study cattle, including animals that had been on the farm for multiple years, were less approachable, even during feeding time.
The second observation was the overall health of the fermented group vs the other non-fermented groups. The fermented group had almost no incidence of illness, coughs, runny noses, etc. They were healthier and required no veterinary treatments. They only received fermented forage and some dry mineral powder (free choice, in tubs). We did not feed any grains or other supplements.
The lower conversion ratios resulted in quicker growth as well as reduced feed consumption as the animals grew. Most cattle will eat their body weight each month, but ours ate 15-25% less, while accelerating weight gain and improving condition. The result was a 3-6 month reduction in time to market which results in significant feed savings.
The next question was the quality of the meat. The slaughter house we used did not provide a USDA grade, but they did tell us the carcasses and the resulting cuts were the best they have seen, and extremely high quality. As they cut the meat, it was some of the easiest to cut they have ever had. In their words, "...the beef we processed...were excellent. They were well marbled with great fat cover. They looked well fed and would be top price beef." If the beef had been USDA inspected, the opinion is that it would have all graded prime. (You can see their full statement here.) You can see a couple pictures of it below.
It looked good, but how did it taste?!
There were several of us that bought some of the finished beef, and we can verify that it was very flavorful, tender, and delicious. Even the hamburger was different than other animals. According to Joziah, "the hamburger, without seasoning, has a smooth, almost buttery flavor, better than any other I have tasted." And his family has been raising steers for generations.
The results clearly showed faster time to market, healthier animals, and much better final quality and flavor, without grains or other additives. All we did was ferment their forage and provide some natural minerals. It really is that easy!
If you want to use fermented forage with your cattle operations,
Call us today at 435-753-2086and we will show you how.