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Reduced age at slaughter in youthful beef cattle: Effects on carcass merit traits

López-Campos, O., Basarab, J.A., Baron, V.S., Aalhus, J.L., Juárez, M. (2012). Reduced age at slaughter in youthful beef cattle: Effects on carcass merit traits, 92(4), 449-463. http://dx.doi.org/10.4141/CJAS2012-014

Abstract

Two-hundred and twenty-four spring-born British × Continental crossbred steers were used in a 2-yr project to evaluate the effect of production system (calf-fed vs. yearling-fed) and its interaction with breed cross and hormone implant strategies, with and without β-adrenergic agonist on carcass characteristics. Carcasses from yearling-fed steers were 32% heavier (P<0.001), resulting in higher (P<0.05) dressing percentages, grade fat and rib-eye (longissimus thoracis) area (REA) (1.1, 32 and 10%, respectively). However, despite being lighter, the estimated lean yield percentage was 3% greater (P=0.010) in carcasses from calf-fed steers. No difference (P>0.05) was observed for marbling scores between production systems. Use of hormonal implants increased (P<0.001) weights of live animals and carcasses (7 and 9%, respectively). However, non-implanted yearling-fed steers had the lowest proportion of Canada Quality Grade A and the highest proportion of Canada Quality Grade AAA carcasses (P<0.001). Moreover, the observed increase (P=0.016) in marbling scores (up to 37%) from British cross-bred steers disappeared with the use of implants. The only effect observed on carcass traits from the use of β-adrenergic agonists was an increase of 6% in REA (P=0.032). The main production system effect observed for carcass composition was a lower (P=0.008) proportion of bone in carcasses from yearling-fed steers. The use of hormonal implants increased (P<0.001) the proportion of lean and decreased (P=0.019) the proportion of fat (P<0.05). Overall carcass composition of steers with large Continental influence (>50%) had a higher proportion of lean and bone and a lower proportion of fat than carcasses from 50-75% British steers (P<0.001), which was also reflected in the composition of several individual primal cuts (e.g., rib, short-loin, flank, chuck and plate). The interactions amongst production systems and the other production factors studied were minimal. Therefore, despite expected differences in carcass size, reducing age at slaughter did not have a negative impact on Canadian beef carcass traits.

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