The feasibility of producing bull beef in suckler herds of traditional breed type was investigated in two parts. A controlled feeding experiment (Part 1) was carried out with weaned bull and steer calves slaughtered at 398, 432 and 466 kg live weight. Bulls and steers were compared on a standard level of feeding and in addition a group of bulls was given a ration providing a 20% higher daily intake of metabolizable energy. This latter group grew significantly faster than the control bulls and steers, and consumed similar total amounts of metabolizable energy when slaughtered at the same final weight. Carcasses from both groups of bulls were significantly leaner than those of steers. With regard to weight of lean produced per day of age the ranking was bulls on the high energy diet > other bulls > steers.
In Part 2 the performance and management demands from birth to slaughter of bulls and steers were compared in a number of spring and autumn-calving herds. Bulls gained live weight more rapidly than steers and although they were taken to heavier slaughter weights their carcasses were significantly leaner. Some readjustment of management practices, e.g. separation of male and female calves with their dams was required. No serious behavioural problems were encountered during the suckling or finishing stages.
A consumer acceptance trial showed that, in relation to steaks normally purchased, 61% of local consumers judged bull steaks as average or above in eating quality compared with 91% for steer steaks. It is concluded that although bull beef production is feasible a market outlet is an essential prerequisite.
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