Effects of chicory / ryegrass swards compared with ryegrass swards on the performance and carcass quality of grazing beef steers

Christina Louise Marley, Rhun Fychan, John Walter Davies, Nigel David Scollan, Ian Richardson, Vince Theobald, Elizabeth Genever, Andy B Forbes, Ruth Sanderson

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An experiment investigated whether the inclusion of chicory ( Cichorium intybus) in swards grazed by beef steers altered their performance, carcass characteristics or parasitism when compared to steers grazing perennial ryegrass ( Lolium perenne). Triplicate 2-ha plots were established with a chicory/ryegrass mix or ryegrass control. Forty-eight Belgian Blue-cross steers were used in the first grazing season and a core group ( n=36) were retained for finishing in the second grazing season. The experiment comprised of a standardisation and measurement period. During standardisation, steers grazed a ryegrass/white clover pasture as one group. Animals were allocated to treatment on the basis of live-weight, body condition and faecal egg counts (FEC) determined 7 days prior to the measurement period. The measurement period ran from 25 May until 28 September 2010 and 12 April until 11 October 2011 in the first and second grazing year. Steers were weighed every 14 days at pasture or 28 days during housing. In the first grazing year, faecal samples were collected for FEC and parasite cultures. At the end of the first grazing year, individual blood samples were taken to determine O. ostertagi antibody and plasma pepsinogen levels. During winter, animals were housed as one group and fed silage. In the second grazing year, steers were slaughtered when deemed to reach fat class 3. Data on steer performance showed no differences in daily live-weight gain which averaged 1.04 kg/day. The conformation, fat grade and killing out proportion of beef steers grazing chicory/ryegrass or ryegrass were not found to differ. No differences in FEC, O. ostertagi antibody or plasma pepsinogen levels of beef steers grazing either chicory/ryegrass or ryegrass were observed. Overall, there were no detrimental effects of including chicory in swards grazed by beef cattle on their performance, carcass characteristics or helminth parasitism, when compared with steers grazing ryegrass.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere86259
JournalPLoS One
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2014


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