Effect of Frame Size and Hormone Implant on Performance and Carcass Characteristics of Finishing Yearling Heifers: Returns to a Value-Based Market
Four groups of yearling heifers representing different frame sizes—small, medium, and large Angus and medium Simmental—were fed high-grain finishing diets to average Low Choice quality grade. Half the heifers were implanted with estrogen and trenbolone acetate. Backfat and ribeye area were measured by ultrasound four times during the study to assess growth of muscle and fat. Increasing frame size resulted in increased feed intake, greater rates of gain, and a trend towards reduced feed conversion. Greater returns would have been realized from each of the four groups had they been sold in a premium market based on yield grade rather than the conventional grade and yield market. Increasing frame size resulted in greater returns to the value-based market. Implants increased rate of gain and improved feed conversion but did not result in significantly greater returns to the value-based market compared with the grade and yield market. Ribeye area and backfat increased with body weight and time on feed. Increase in ribeye area was linear with time, whereas accumulation of backfat was exponential. Rate of increase in area of ribeye tended to increase and backfat tended to decrease as frame size increased. Implants increased rate of increase in ribeye area but had no effect on rate of deposition of subcutaneous fat. Equations describing growth of ribeye area and backfat for each group predicted average growth for the heifers but did not predict growth of individual heifers. Final carcass yield grade was related to initial thickness of backfat but not to initial ribeye area. These results indicate that the type of cattle selected to be fed for a premium market based on yield grade is important to the success of the program. More work is needed to develop growth equations from ultrasound measurements, but ultrasound will likely be a useful tool in selecting feeder cattle for a value-based market.