Getting more value out of cull cows

Beef Central, 07/07/2020

Charles Sturt University honours students Jake Bourlet, Christine Harris and Jessie Phillips

CHARLES  Sturt University research, in conjunction with Meat & Livestock Australia, has shown it’s possible for beef cattle producers to increase live weight, carcase quality and potentially the financial returns from cull cows, by feeding a high energy ration.

The findings of a 2019 study by Charles Sturt Honours students Jake Bourlet, Christine Harris and Jessie Phillips will be presented at the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation’s Livestock Forum on Friday 31 July.

Research supervisor and Charles Sturt farming systems lecturer, Dr Michael Campbell, said it shows there’s potential to develop a high quality product from cull beef cows over five years of age.

“Given the reduction in Australia’s beef herd, and predicted lower slaughter rates, it is important that the industry extracts as much value from every carcase processed, including older females,” Dr Campbell said.

“We have also seen a trend towards branded products, which can extract further value from animals that have high eating quality attributes.

“With this in mind, it is important that we understand how to better manage cows that have been culled from a beef breeding herd to improve meat quality outcomes.”

The 2019 study examined the live animal performance and meat quality of Angus and Angus cross cows that had been culled due to their age.

They were fed the same diet for different periods of time before slaughter and a full Meat Standards Australia carcass evaluation was performed on each animal.

“The live weight, carcase weight and quality increased with an increased time of feed,” Dr Campbell said.

“The number of carcasses that met the required standards to be given an MSA index increased to 84 per cent after 56 days on feed, compared with only 11 per cent after 28 days on feed.

“If the market rewards this quality with higher prices it could be worthwhile to put cattle on feed for a period of time before slaughter, depending on the cost of feed.”

Dr Campbell will talk more about the research during the Livestock Forum from 9am to 1:30 pm on Friday 31 July.

The Forum is being held online on an interactive digital platform to allow livestock producers to find out about new research and hear from industry experts.

The forum costs $10.00 to attend. People can register at

Other topics on the program include sheep reproduction, genetic benchmarking in the merino industry, dual purpose mixes and cover cropping, multi-breed genomic evaluation in beef cattle and containment feeding of sheep.

The research was approved by Charles Sturt’s Animal Care and Ethics Committee.

Source: Charles Sturt University. This project was funded by MLA through the Meat Standards Australia program.


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