Beef Production with Fermented Forage

At Bio Minerals Technologies, we have been working with animal producers for many years. We have proven the benefits of our probiotics, minerals, and fermentation on numerous farms. It was time to do it ourselves and document the process and the results.

The objective of the experiment was to feed cattle on nothing but fermented forages and to observe their rate of growth, health, and finish quality at slaughter weight (about 1200 lbs).

In general, the industry average time to get a beef animal from birth to slaughter weight (about 1200 lbs) is 18-24 months.

In our study group, consisting of 5 animals, the cattle achieved slaughter weight in 15-17 months, with good composition, marbling, and fat cover. The basic data is shown in the table below.

Average starting weight 550 lbs
Average finish weight 1250 lbs
Average hanging weight 740 lbs
Age range at finish 15-17 months
Feed conversion ratio 5.75 / 1

 

Here's how we did it.

First, we harvested some cover crop and some alfalfa. They were both treated with our fermentation probiotic and  baled wet (40% moisture or higher). The bales were wrapped and set aside to ferment for about 6 months before we started the experiment. We added more fermented forage along the way, but most was able to ferment for at least 4-6 months before feeding.

When the forage was ready, we acquired some weaner calves from a local operation. The calves were about 7 months old when they were removed from their mothers and placed into a separate, clean corral with plenty of space to wander as they grew. Their diet consisted of fermented cover crop bales and fermented alfalfa, with some free-choice dry minerals they could lick up whenever they wanted.

One of our first observations was that the fermented group was calmer than the other cattle on the farm. They were more docile and readily accepted handling and petting as they ate. The non-study cattle, including animals that had been on the farm for multiple years, were less approachable, even during feeding time.

The second observation was the overall health of the fermented group vs the other non-fermented groups. The fermented group had almost no incidence of illness, coughs, runny noses, etc. They were healthier and required no veterinary treatments. They only received fermented forage and some dry mineral powder (free choice, in tubs). We did not feed any grains or other supplements.

The lower conversion ratios resulted in quicker growth as well as reduced feed consumption as the animals grew. Most cattle will eat their body weight each month, but ours ate 15-25% less, while accelerating weight gain and improving condition. The result was a 3-6 month reduction in time to market which results in significant feed savings.

The next question was the quality of the meat. The slaughter house we used did not provide a USDA grade, but they did tell us the carcasses and the resulting cuts were the best they have seen, and extremely high quality. As they cut the meat, it was some of the easiest to cut they have ever had. In their words, "...the beef we processed...were excellent. They were well marbled with great fat cover. They looked well fed and would be top price beef." If the beef had been USDA inspected, the opinion is that it would have all graded prime. (You can see their full statement here.)

It looked good, but how did it taste?!

There were several of us that bought some of the finished beef, and we can verify that it was very flavorful, tender, and delicious. Even the hamburger was different than other animals. According to Joziah, "the hamburger, without seasoning, has a smooth, almost buttery flavor, better than any other I have tasted." And his family has been raising steers for generations.

The results clearly showed faster time to market, healthier animals, and much better final quality and flavor, without grains or other additives. All we did was ferment their forage and provide some natural minerals. It really is that easy!

If you want to use fermented forage with your cattle operations, call us at 435-753-2086 and we will show you how.

You can watch a video of our fermentation process and results below. The cows shown in the video are from this study.

 


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