Comparison of performance and profitability based on feeding methods for cattle in confinement operations.

Date on Honors Thesis




Examining Committee Member

Amanda Davis, PhD, Advisor

Examining Committee Member

Shea Porr, PhD, Committee Member

Examining Committee Member

Michelle Santiago, PhD, Committee Member


The objective of this study was to evaluate performance and cost effectiveness of two feeding strategies for market steers fed in confinement. Thirty-six Angus based crossbred steers, belonging to a private producer, were used in this study. Steers were randomly allocated to one of two treatment feeding methods based on initial BW (305.8 ± 7.5 kg) and BCS (4.6). Steers in the first treatment group were fed once per day using a hand-fed ration (DHF; n = 18) while steers in the second group were fed using a self-feeder (SF; n = 18) ration with a Cargill Limiter. Body weight was recorded and average daily gain calculated at d 33, 62, and 92. Body condition score was recorded on d 24, 59, and 90. Feed, labor, hay and mineral intake, and bedding requirements were compared for each treatment to compare costs associated with feeding. Upon completion of the study steers were sold at market price and overall profit evaluated. Statistical analysis was performed using the Mixed procedure of SAS to determine effects of feeding method on performance variables including BW, BCS, and ADG. Overall ADG was greater for SF steers (SF = 3.55 versus DHF = 3.08; P = 0.01) throughout the study except for d 62-92 where ADG was similar between treatments (SF = 3.09 versus DHF = 3.31; P = 0.35). Body weight was similar throughout the study except on d 62, where BW tended to favor SF steers (412.0 versus 389.2 kg; P = 0.09). Average BCS was similar throughout the study except on d 59, SF steers had a higher BCS compared to DHF steers (SF = 5.6 versus DHF = 5.4; P = 0.04). Data suggests that the use of a self-feeder may have affected the ADG and BCS of feeder steers in confinement. Partial budgeting analysis suggested that, daily hand-fed cattle were associated with greater labor requirement, and hay and mineral intake. However, overall, DHF steers were more economical to feed due to increased feed cost for SF steers. More data is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of self-limiters used in beef confinement operations.

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