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Organic steer production based on dairy breed bull calves - a farm study in Denmark

Nielsen, Dr. B.K.; Kristensen, Dr. T. and Thamsborg, Professor S.M. (2003) Organic steer production based on dairy breed bull calves - a farm study in Denmark. Acta Agriculturæ Scandinavica. Section A. Animal Science. [Unpublished]

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The objective of this study was to describe organic steer production on farm level. Six Danish organic farms were part of the registration program including 3 dairy farmers and 3 crop farmers buying dairy breed bull calves from organic dairy farmers. All farmers had a steer production, some of them were recently started and some had an established steer production. The experiment endured 2 years from January 2000 to April 2002. Registrations included liveweight, feed consumption, welfare and slaughter results with special emphasis on the fattening period. Welfare registrations were based on a scheme describing the system as well as the animal during winter when stabled in the barn and during summer on pasture. Registrations were measured on the system as well on the animals. Daily gain on pasture varied from 533 to 823 g and covers grazing on ryegrass/clover pastures as well as marginal grazing areas. On most of the farms steers grazed both kind of pastures. Gains during the stable period varied from 562 to 867 g/day between the farms. Feed consumption per steer per year was 1770 SFU ± 186 based on 4 farms. Feed consumption in summer accounted 0.47 to 0.57 of total feed consumption (DM) per year. Pasture accounts for 0.22 to 0.56 and concentrates for 0.16 to 0.37 of the total dry matter (DM) consumption per year. Management strategies concerning the fattening of steers were different between the 6 farms, as liveweight (458-595 kg) and age (20-25 months) at start of fattening and at slaughter (565-667 kg and 23-28 months) and length of fattening period (2.3-3.4 months) varied. Feeding during the fattening period was based on 1.3 to 4.7 Scandinavian Feed Units (SFU) concentrates per steer per day and silage ad libitum. The total amount of cereals consumed in the fattening period was 100-357 kg/steer. Only few steers were fattened on pasture. It seemed that whole crop silage is preferred to grass silage in the fattening period. Slaughter results show a variation between farms in slaughter percentage from 49.4 to 53.8, carcass conformation from 3.5 to 4.9 and fatness from 2.5 to 3.2. Liveweight at slaughter was the only variable with general effect on carcass conformation on 5 farms (0.6 point on the EUROP-scale with increase in 100 kg liveweight at slaughter). The welfare registration scheme indicates good conditions both in the barn and on pasture, low disease rate and minor problems concerning welfare aspects in organic steer production. It is concluded that great variation between farms concerning management strategies shows the possibilities for improving the production system. Fattening strategy should focus on liveweight at slaughter. Length of fattening period as well as daily gain during the fattening period in the range practiced on the farms seemed to be of minor importance with regard to carcass conformation.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:beef production, fattening, organic farming, production system, welfare
Subjects: Animal husbandry > Production systems
Research affiliation: Denmark > DARCOF II (2000-2005) > II. 3 (PROSBIO) Production of steers and use of bioactive forages
Deposited By: Thamsborg, Professor Stig Milan
ID Code:1873
Deposited On:05 Nov 2003
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:28
Document Language:English
Refereed:Submitted for peer-review but not yet accepted

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