The first grass-fed and feedlot cohorts from an extensive project led by Charles Sturt University have now been processed at weights of 300 kilograms.
While the Holsteins and Holstein-crosses only averaged .89 and .95 kilograms a day average daily gain while being backgrounded, compared to the beef breeds at 1.95kg, the dairy animals came into their own once they hit the feedlot.
Here, the Holsteins recorded 1.33kg/day weight gains, the Holstein-crosses 1.13kg and the beef breeds 1.28kg.
The project, which is also supported by Meat & Livestock Australia, Dairy Australia and several processors, kicked off three years ago with the aim of studying the impacts of genetics, nutrition and management on the performance and eating quality of beef from dairy breeds.
A total of 240 head of cattle are involved on numerous farms and feedlots across south east Australia.
MLA’s David Packer said the aim was to provide guidance to producers considering utilising dairy animals for a Meat Standards Australia outcome.
“We are hoping to identify certain practice changes and pathways that could potentially add value to a dairy animal produced for beef,” Dr Packer said.
The Holsteins had comparable ossification and marble scores, though they had lighter muscling and a smaller eye muscle area compared to beef breeds.
“So far, the dairy breeds are performing well from the carcase side, but we will need to have the whole picture,” Dr Packer said.
That will include consumer sensory testing, and analysis of distribution of cuts and whether it is commercially viable to package and sell these products alongside a typical MSA product.
Jerseys have also been included, but showed lower carcase quality and higher MSA non-compliance.
The project will also look at a Spanish feeding treatment pathway, a custom high energy grain ration utilised overseas where dairy cattle are lot fed more commonly.
Under this regime, a liveweight of 460kg is obtained at 10 months of age, however, in this project the feeding period will be extended to increase carcase weight in line with market requirements.
Researchers are also investigating the viability of establishing a veal pathway for dairy beef to achieve eligibility for MSA grading.
Currently, carcases classified under the Aus-Meat veal cipher are not eligible for MSA, however milk fed vealers that are turned off at higher slaughter weights are eligible.