Research: Grain Based Diets Without Additives

AUSTRALIA - Joint research by the Department of Agriculture and Food and Murdoch University has shown cattle can be successfully introduced to grain-based diets in commercial feedlots without the use of feed additives.
calendar icon 1 July 2008
clock icon 2 minute read

Department development officer Fiona Jones, who led the research as part of a Phd project, said in Australia, beef was the second most popular fresh meat after chicken and one of the highest value export products.

“To consistently meet the production levels required, feedlot cattle are being fed grain-based rations,” she said.

“However, if grain is not introduced to the feed as specified, this can result in a digestive disorder acidosis, which can lead to a reduction in productivity and even death.”

Ms Jones said preventative measures such as the inclusion of antibiotics like virginiamycin and ionophores such as monensin could reduce the risk of acidosis during a rapid introduction to grain-based diets.

“However, consumers are now demanding a reduction in the use of additives in food, and export markets increasingly will not accept beef produced using feed additives, particularly antibiotics,” she said.

“There is a need for the feedlot industry to phase out the use of additives, which is already present with the use of virginiamycin, and look at feed management practices to formulate the most effective commercial rations and feeding systems.”

Ms Jones said trials showed that as long as cattle were given sufficient roughage and an appropriate grain introduction system, there was no need to use antibiotics to reduce acidosis.

“There are three rules to follow to safely introduce cattle to a grain-based diet,” she said.

“Ensure cattle are not hungry prior to introduction and are supplied with excess roughage, introduce grain slowly in increments from 20 per cent to a maximum of 85 per cent over a three week period and make sure grain is not crushed too finely and hay is not less than 10 mm in length in a total mixed ration. Cattle should be monitored daily for signs of acidosis.”

More information on beef cattle research will be highlighted as part of the department’s Agribusiness Livestock Updates on 1 and 2 July at the University of Western Australia Club.

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