This report consists of information derived from research at
the Everglades Station and is presented as part of the program
included in the Beef Cattle Breeders' and Herdsmen's Short
Course held at the University of Florida in Gainesville on
April 12, 13 and l4, 1956.
EVERGLADES STATION MIMEO REPORT 56-10
Belle Glade, Florida.
April 10, 1956
A FEEDING PROGRAM FCR FATTENING STEERS IN THE EVERGLADES AREA
D. W. Beardsley
A Feeding Program for Fattening Steers in the Everglades Area
D. W. Beardsley
Everglades Experiment Station
Because of the fluctuations in the price of feeder and slaughter steers
and feed, it is difficult, if not impossible, to devise a feeding program which will
return a profit in a fattening operation every year. This is true not only for the
Everglades area but wherever cattle are fed. It would appear that the common sense
approach to this problem is to devise a system flexible enough to take advantage of
whatever opportunities arise for making a profit.
Coupled with this idea of flexibility is the need to utilize to the full-
est extent practical the cheapest source of nutrients available to the cow-roughageo
This roughage may take the form of many different forage crops, but in the Ever-
glades it is mainly pasture grass. Recently some of this pasture has been preserved
and fed as silage, but the permanent pasture grasses are the mainstay of the feeding
It might be well to consider the types of fattening programs which are
in use in the Glades now. First there is the system of bringing in thin yearling
and two-year old steers, grazing them on good grass for three months to a year and
selling them as grass fat steers. The second program is just an extension of this
in which concentrates are fed for 60 to 120 days on pasture to improve the slaughter
grade. Often this concentrate is limited to about six to ten pounds daily per steer
or not more than about one-half full feed. The third system which is in limited use
is strictly a drylot feeding program.
Each system has certain advantages and limitations, depending on the kind
of steers available, price of feed and slaughter steers, and the rancher's own oper-
ations. For instance, if the feeder market on ordinary grade Brahman steers is low
and feed is relatively high, the best return might be obtained by turning them as
utility or commercial grass-fat slaughter steers after cheap gains on grass. On the
other hand if the price spread in slaughter grade between utility and good is wide,
then the best return might be obtained by feeding some concentrates along with pas-
ture. One of the drawbacks to full feeding steers on pasture as compared to drylot
feeding is that, ordinarily, steers will not finish as rapidly on pasture as in dry-
lot. Still, drylot feeding has serious limitations due to difficulties in providing
an adequate foundation and drainage for the feeding area in this organic soil.
Generally speaking, the kind of steers which are available in Florida in
largest quantities would warrant no more than a limited amount of concentrates in
addition to pasture. With the kind of pasture which can be grown on the muck soils
of the Everglades, five or six pounds of a basic carbohydrate supplement is very
satisfactory. Growing tips of the grass in the Everglades Station pastures sampled
throughout the year analyzed from 12 to more than 18 percent crude protein on an
oven-dry basis. Under these circumstances where pasture provides the major portion
of the total ration, no extra protein supplement is necessary. Six pounds of a
mixture of equal parts ground snapped corn, citrus pulp and blackstrap molasses fed
in addition to pasture for 120 days will enable most medium grade feeder steers to
make the commercial slaughter grade.
It is felt, however, that with higher quality steers which have the in-
herited ability to utilize more concentrates efficiently, higher levels of feeding
Prepared for: Beef Cattle Breeder's and Herdsmen's Short Course, University of
Florida. April 12 -13- 14, 1956.
would be desirable. It is not unreasonable to expect good grade feeder steers to
attain the good slaughter grade when full fed concentrates on adequate pasture for
100 to 140 days.
In Table 1 are summarized the results of two steer feeding trials at the
Everglades Station by way of illustrating some of the ideas presented. Lots I
through V were fed on St. Augustine pasture while Lots VI and VII were given St,
Augustine silage in the drylot. In these studies the rations consisted of approxi-
mately equal parts ground snapped corn, dried citrus pulp, and blackstrap or urea-
fortified blackstrap molasses with some additional urea and cottonseed meal to help
balance the ration.
Table 1 Results of spring and winter trials comparing limited with full feed
of concentrates for fattening steers on pasture and silage for 120 days.
Lot Number I II III IV V VI VII
Av. daily gain, S* 1.45 1.81 1.94 1.85 2.11 1. -45
lbs. W* 0.29 0.93 1.68 0.83 1.78 1.05 1.95
Av. daily feed, S ---- 6.0 12.0 18C6:* 17.o 7.9
lbs. W ---- 6,0 1266 18.6- 17.4 6.5 17.8
Av. feeder grade S Med. Med, Med. Med. Med. Med. ---
W H. Med. H. Med. H. Med. HoMed. H. Med. H. Med. H. Med.
Av. carcass S H. Util. Coml. Coml. Coml. H. Coml. H. Util --
grade W L. Util L. Coml. H. Coml. Coml. L. Good Coml. Good
Av. dressing S 55.6 58.5 59.5 59.1 60.6 54.7
percentage W 52.1 56.9 58.3 57.5 59.1 56.0 60.4
Feed cost/cwt. S $ 2.40 $ 8.10 $13.50 $13.10 $18.60 $20.30
gain(incl.pasture) W 12.06 14,29 15.03 23.96 19,34 23.71 $19.76
Av. selling S 13.90 16.05 16.24 15.89 17.32 13.12 -
price/cwt. W 12.45 11477 16.70 15.45 17.57 15.37 20,05
Return above steer S 24.11 37*65 28.43 26.72 25.11 -13.37 --
and feed costs W -16.12 0.99 14.95 -2.85 16.27 6.85 35.56
S* = trial held during spring 1954
W- "I winter 1954-55.
-* Fed last 60 days only
i** Spring 1954 trial slaughtered at Ocala; winter 1954-55 at Miami.
As a result of studies at the Everglades Station and observations of
feeding operations in the area for many years, a flexible year-round program, as
shown in Table 2, has been worked out for producing slaughter steers. It is de-
signed to take advantage of pasture to the fullest extent consistent with producing
good beef, but must necessarily be adapted to the individual feeder's situation.
Table 2. Year-round program for growing and fattening steers in the Everglades
Daily Gain, Req.,
Obtain weaned calves,
teach to eat.
Turn calves out to
Start feeding yrl'ss.
(last year's calves)
Full feed yrlgs, on
pasture(or in tr'ylot)
Sell fat stee':s
(now 2-yr. o?.ds)
Stop suppl. calves
350-415 0.5-1.0 0.3-2.0
750-850 2.0 -2.5 o.4-o.8
500-550 1.0-l.4 O0.-2.0
Steer calver; are obtained i the fall when they are in greatest supply and
fed enough concentrates to help them adjust to a high roughage ration and gain 0.5
to 1,0 pounds a day through the winter. These calves are then ready to go on spring
grass and can be expected to make good, cheap gains through the summer. As the
pasture begins to sllw down its growth in the fall, these yearlings are started on
concentrates. The amount of concentrates given and the length of time they are fed
can be varied according to quality of steers used and the slaughter grade desired*
After full feeding on pasture for 60 to 90 days, a final 60 to 90 days feeding in
drylot can be expected to produce some well-finished steers,
Some sample rations for this plan are given in Table 3. They consist prin-
cipally of home-grown corn, locally produced blackstrap molasses, and dried citrus
pulp readily available in this part of the state. The amounts of each ingredient
and total amount fed could be varied according to local conditions prevailing for the
Table 3. Daily concentrate ration in pounds for weaned calves and fattening steers.
Ground snapped corn
Dried citrus pulp
Cottonseed Meal (1l% C.P.
Urea (262% C.P.)
The flexibility of this program as outlined can best be visualized by
considering the basic idea is growing steers on pasture. The three fattening sys-
tems mentioned earlier can be followed in a logical sequence if conditions warrant
Steers can be sold in the fall as grass fat, they can be continued on pasture with
concentrates and then sold, or they can be fed on pasture and then in drylot for
I should like to propose a little different type of a feeding plan which
may be of more interest in the future but, I think, deserves some consideration now,
Essentially this plan would utilize good quality feeder calves that would grow rapid
ly and fatten easily. Calves weaned in late summer and early fall weighing around
450-500 pounds would be fed 4 to 5 pounds per head daily of a good growing ration
for 3 to 4 months on pasture. The concentrate level would then be stepped up as
much as the steers would take readily and continued for another 4 to 6 months. Part
of this full feeding period might well be in drylot. The goal of this program would
be good and choice slaughter steers weighing 900 to 1000 pounds at 15 to 18 months
This sort of a plan would definitely require growth, easy fleshing calves,
It is designed to utilize those heavy calves which do not make choice slaughter
calves at weaning but that have the inherited ability to grow and gain. Because of
the amount of feed this system would require, only the better gainers should be put
on full feed. The gains made during the initial 3 to 4 months adjustment period can
serve as a guide as to which calves might be expected to do well on the heavier feed
ing. In other words, this initial period would serve as a steer performance testing
To illustrate the possibilities which this idea presents, some data from a
study now nearing completion at the Everglades Station are given in Table 4.
Table 4. Comparison of weights and gains of steer calves divided according to
performance on a weaned calf feeding study.
All 13 Top 9 Bottom 4
Av. weaning wt,, Ibs. 477 471 491
ADG, weaned calf study (98 days), Ibs. 1.20 1,35 0,86
Initial wt,, steer feeding study, lbs. 583 597 55$
ADG, steer feeding study (120 days), Ibs. 2.21 2.31 1.99
Av. present wt., Ibs. 848 873 793
Thirteen steers which were on a weaned calf feeding study for 98 days are now being
used in a stilbestrol feeding study. In general, the steers which made the poorest
gains during the calf feeding study are making the poorest gains in the stilbestrol
I believe this points up one thing for the future performance testing
steer calves at weaning. If more of these good-doing steer calves were available,
the concentrate feeding in this area would increase considerably.
None of the feeding programs outlined here will guarantee any feeder a
profit. However, with due consideration of the many cost factors involved, some of
these ideas may be adapted to an individual rancher's operation to his advantage.