BY: Jackie Harrigan
Preliminary results from the first round of slaughter of young dairy beef animals, up to 12 months of age, have been very positive, Massey University meat researcher Nicola Schreurs says.
The New Generation beef research trials grew 60 Hereford x Friesian-Jersey cross animals through to slaughter at eight, 10 and 12 months in 2018 to investigate the meat quality and carcase characteristics. The research is developing a new meat product from underutilised dairy origin calves. (see Dairy Exporter, October 2018).
“Considering the potential of the two million-odd bobby calves slaughtered each year, growing them and delivering them into an early slaughter programme could add value to the animals once delivered into a market demanding lean protein,” Schreurs says.
The 60 Hereford x Friesian Jersey cross steer calves were sourced from a commercial calf rearer as weaners and then finished on Massey farms. At eight months they were assigned to slaughter groups, balanced for liveweight.
Their diet included a plantain, chicory, red and white clover mix from December-January, supplemented with 0.5kg meal/ head. In February they grazed a Hunter brassica crop and March till slaughter grazed on ryegrass/white clover pasture.
The target growth rate was 1kg/day and the steers’ were able to maintain 0.8kg/day from weaning till slaughter in May, July and September for the eight, 10 and 12-month-old cattle.
The meat quality was measured and indicated shear force values below 5kgF which is below the 7kgF threshold considered by industry as being associated with an exceptional eating experience. The meat got redder as the slaughter age progressed and the colour measurements indicate that New Generation Beef would be considered as a red meat product, and could therefore achieve a premium beef price, Schreurs says.
“Modelling indicated that more head per hectare could be finished on farm, with higher carcaseweight/ha but for the New Generation Beef system to be truly competitive on a per head basis, the product would require a schedule price above that of manufacturing beef.”
More research is required on markets, she added
The next stage of research, on farm and to further characterise the meat, will consider animal-type, including bull compared to steer compared to heifer and also consider if there is a place for heifers out of heifers in the New Generation Beef system.
NEW GENERATION BEEF:
• Dairy origin animals for beef will grow at 0.8kg/day or greater from weaning till slaughter
• Carcase weights 120kg (eight months), 150kg (10 months), 175kg (12 months).Testing has proven the tenderness to be high
• Red colour of meat increases as cattle age, looks like red meat
• A per kg carcase weight premium over manufacturing beef required for competitiveness
• More research required on markets.