STEER FEEDING STUDIES AT THE EVERGLADES EXPERIMENT STATION
D. W. Beardsley
This report was given before the Second Annual Cattlemen's
Institute at Lake Placid, August 10, 1955. It represents
a summary of more recent pasture fattening studies part of
which are reported in detail in Everglades Station Mimeo
Reports 55-7 and 56-3.
EVERGLADES STATION MIMEO REPORT 56-4
Belle Glade, Florida
September 10, 1955
STEER FEEDING STUDIES AT THE EVERGLADES EXPERIMENT STATION
D. W. Beardsley 5/
Steer feeding trials were begun at the Everglades Station in 1935. At
that time very few cattle were grazed in the Everglades. The first studies compared
the value of sugarcane cut fresh and as silage with and without molasses in the dry-
lot and the use of Dallis grass pasture for fattening. steers. Since that time most
of the studies have been concerned with the value of various concentrates as supple-
ments to pasture for fattening steers,
Out of the studies which began twenty years ago, the idea has evolved that
the most practical approach to fattening steers in this area is to utilize pasture
grass to the fullest extent and whatever concentrates that can be obtained locally
as supplements. In the course of these studies many concentrates have been used and
their value in a steer fattening operation studied. Among these are ground snapped
corn, dried citrus pulp, blackstrap molasses, citrus molasses, dried sweet potatoes,
sweet potato meal, ground shallu heeds, cottonseed meal, urea, and extracted alfalfa
meal. The results of the feeding trials with these concentrates have been published
in one form or another. Suffice it to say that all these feeds mentioned might be
utilized to advantage in a feeding operation, depending, of course, on the other many
variables of costs, price of beef, etc.
Today I would like to emphasize some of the more recent studies which may be
of interest to you. Because some of the studies with various concentrates for fat-
tening steers on pasture were inconclusive as to the need for extra protein, a series
of trials was begun in 1951 to check the value of various protein sources as supple-
ments for a limited concentrate ration fed to steers on Roselawn St. Augustine grass
pasture. Two trials were held during the spring and two in the fall. Each trial con-
sisted of five uniform lots of two-year old, mostly grade Brahman steers with ten ani-
mals per lot. Each lot had access to four acres of Roselawn St. Augustine grass. The
crude protein sources compared were cottonseed meal, urea, and extracted alfalfa meal.
The supplements given and the average results for the four trials are shown
in Table 1. It can be seen that the average daily gain of all lots receiving supple-
mentary feed was more than 3/4 pound greater than the steers on grass alone.
Table ,1 Average results of four steer feeding trials comparing value of various
protein supplements average duration of trials, 122 days.
Lot Number 1* II III IV V
Initial weight, lbs. 659 649 644 647 634
Final weight, Ibs. 724 819 811 817 798
Av. daily gain, lbs. 0.54 1.40 1.37 1.0 1.35
Av. daily ration/steer, Ibs,
Ground snapped corn 2.0 1,5 1.5 1.5
Citrus pulp .. 2.0 1. 1.5 1.5
Blackstrap molasses .-- 2,0 2.0 2.0 2.0
410 cottonseed meal .. -- 1.0
Urea-corn mix (15% -- --- *
urea +850 gr.sn.corn)
Extracted alfalfa meal -- -- 2.3*
Av. carcass grade Util. Low Comm. Low Comm. Low Comm. High U!,..
Average of last three trials only.
*48 This amount calculated to give approximately same amount of crude protein as
in one pound of 4l% cottonseed meal.
3 Assistant Animal Husbandman, Everglades Experiment Station, Belle Glade, Flori-
- 2 -
In Table 2, the average daily gains for the fall and winter and the spring
trials are given separately. A considerable difference in rate of gain can be noted
between the seasons, but even when considering the fall trials separately from the
spring trials, no advantages were observed in providing supplementary crude protein
above that in the basic carbohydrate supplement fed at about 6 pounds per steer
It would appear that the differences found between the fall and spring
trials are due to the total amount of nutrients available to the steers in the fall
and winter, rather than a shortage of protein alone. This conclusion is substantiate
by the results of chemical analyses for crude protein of growing tips and leaves of
the St. Augustine grass taken at biweekly intervals. These values reported on an
oven-dry basis have ranged from 15.0 to 18.0 percent crude protein.
Table 2. Average daily gain in pounds for two trials held during fall and winter
and two trials held during spring.
Lot Number I II III IV V
Fall & Winter 0.26 0.93 0.92 1.02 0.95
Spring 1.12* 1.86 1.82 1.77 1.75
* Average for second spring trial only.
In the spring of 195 a new series of feeding trials was begun comparing
limited with full feed of concentrates for fattening steers on Roselawn St. Augus-
tine pasture and silage. To date two trials have been completed, one in the spring
of 1954, the other during the winter of 1954-1955. The results of the silage studies
have already been discussed.
Five lots of ten steers each were fed different levels of concentrates on
pasture as follows
Lot I No concentratesa
Lot II 6 1bsi of concentrates per steer for 120 days.
Lot III 6 lbs. of concentrates per steer for 60 days; full feed for
Lot IV No concentrates for 60 days; full feed for 60 days.
Lot V Full feed of concentrates for 120 days.
Steers on pasture receiving six pounds per day of a mixture of equal parts ground
snapped corn, citrus pulp and blackstrap molasses were given no extra protein supple-
ment. !Ihen the steers were receiving full feed on pasture, urea-fortified (L% urea)
blackstrap molasses replaced the straight mill-run molasses in this mixture.
During the spring of. 1954, plenty of grass was available for all lots.
However, 'during the. following winter, a definite shortage was observed. The results
of these two trials and the obvious differences due to lack of.forage can be seen
in Table 3.
When grass was plentiful all the steers made economical gains, with the
greatest return for the steers given limited feed. ,Tith a shortage of grass, gains
were poor and only the lots on the highest levels of concentrates gave a reasonable
return. One conclusion is obvious it is impossible to starve a profit out of a
Table 3. Results of spring and winter trials comparing limited with full feed of
concentrates for fattening steers on pasture.
Lot Number 1 II III IV V
Av. daily gain, Ibs. S1 1.45 1.81 1.94 1.85 2.11
W1 0.29 0.93 1.68 0.83 1.78
Av. total daily ra- S ---- 6.0 12,0 18.62 17.4
tion, lbs. W ---- 6.0 12.6 18.62 17.4
Av. feeder grade S Med. Med. Med. Med. Med.
W High Med. High Med, High Med. High Med. High Med.
Av. carcass grade S High Util Comm. Comm. Com. High Comm.
W Low Util. Low Comm. High Comm. Comm. Low Good
Av. dressing percentage3 S 55.6 58.5 59.5 59.1 60.6
w 52.1 56.9 58.3 57.5 59.1
Feed cost/cwt. gain S $ 2.40 $ 8,10 $13.50 $13.10 $18.60
(incl. pasture) W 12.06 14.29 15.03 23.96 19.34
Av. selling price/cwt, S 13.90 16.05 16.24 15.89 17.32
W 12.45 14.77 16.70 15.45 17.57
Return above steer and S 24.11 37.65 28,43 26,72 25.11
feed costs W -16.12 0,99 14.95 -2.85 16.27
1 S = trial held during
W= n U It
2 Fed last 60 days only.
3 Spring 1954 trial slaughtered at Ocala; winter 1954-55 at Miami.
Other observations which can be made are: (1) That the cheapest gains are
made on grass; (2) With average quality steers, i.e., medium grade feeders, the com-
mercial slaughter grade can be obtained with limited feed on pasture; (3) Higher
quality steers capable of attaining the good slaughter grade on full feed are poten-
tially more profitable than lower quality steers on limited or no feed of concentrates
A long list of problems involved in feeding steers in this area could be
worked up, many of which are common to all feeding operations. Because the condi-
tions in the Everglades are somewhat different from other sections of the state,
only those which may be peculiar to this section are discussed here. All of these
problems arise from the program of utilizing the cheapest source of feed available -
One of the most important problems confronting the feeder in this area is
the fluctuation in grass production during the year. Seasonal ups and downs of quan-
tity and quality can be anticipated to a certain extent, but sudden frosts, long cold
spells, heavy rains, etc., cannot be predicted very easily. The solution here would
be to provide extra feed for the worst and hope for the best. Planting cold resis-
tant crops such as rye grass, oats, and clovers, and the use of grass silage will
help offset the decline in grass growth during the winter months.
The unavailability of high quality feeder steers has limited the steer fat-
tening operations in the past to using mostly grass with little extra concentrates.
The cattle feeder here needs an animal that can grow rapidly on grass and that also
has the inherited ability to utilize concentrates to advantage. Many of the cattle-
men in the area are beginning to produce their own feeders and it is anticipated that
more of these high quality steers will eventually become available from the other
areas of the state.
One of the problems of fattening steers on the muck soils which can often
become acute is the muddy condition around the feed troughs in wet weather. This
is one of the reasons that feeding steers on pasture during the summer and early fall
is not generally recommended. Two systems of reducing this problem are currently
being used. One is to haul in rock and marl to fill an area around the troughs where
the steers congregate; the other is to move the troughs to a different place in the
pasture as soon as the area becomes muddy. Neither is entirely satisfactory.
The last problem to be mentioned is that of producing an acceptable carcass
on grass. On the average it takes a little longer to attain the equivalent grade on
pasture than in the drylot. Carcasses from grass fattened steers usually show a more
pronounced yellow color in the fat. The depth of this color is related to the amount
of carotene and other pigments obtained from the grass. Steers fed a heavy concen-
trate ration will show less yellow color than steers fattened on grass alone. Pre-
judice against this yellro color will continue to disappear as more quality beef is
produced on concentrates and pasture.