Past Project

Evaluating the Impact of Water Quality for Finishing Beef Cattle

Executive Summary

Dr. Ira Mandell University of Guelph

Results Summary

Three beef cattle growth performance studies were conducted comparing the Bauer Energy Design water treatment system to conventional well water.   The 3 studies were conducted at the University of Guelph’s Elora Beef Research Centre using the Insentec feedlot barn where complex feeding behaviour data (daily feed intake, #meals consumed per day, time duration for each meal, quantity of feed consumed per each meal), are measured on cattle housed in the pens.  The first feeding trial started in August of 2014 using ninety-six 480 kg heifers. The trial utilized 8 pens of cattle (12 head per pen) with 4 water management regimens evaluated with 2 pens of cattle for each water management regimen.  The water management regimens included: 1) cattle receiving Elora well water (untreated) for the entire 112 days on feed, 2) cattle receiving Bauer Energy Design treated  well water for the entire 112 days, 3) cattle receiving Elora untreated well water for the first 56 days of the trial followed by receiving Bauer Energy Design treated  well water for the last 56 days on feed,  and 4) cattle receiving Bauer Energy Design treated well water for the first 56 days of the trial followed by receiving untreated Elora  well water for the last 56 days on feed. In general, there were no differences (P > 0.10) across water management regimens for water quality (Table 1), growth performance (Table 2), carcass (Table 3), and meat quality (Table 4) traits.  The evaluated traits included gains, feed intake, feed efficiency, carcass weight, measures of fatness and muscling, longissimus muscle (rib eye) product appearance based on lean color, tenderness, and cooking losses (which has implications for juiciness). There tended to be a water treatment by the number of days a specific water treatment was used interaction (P = 0.06; Table 2) with lower gains for cattle receiving Elora well water for the first 56 days of the trial followed by receiving Bauer Energy Design treated well water for the last 56 days on feed.  We do not have an explanation for this effect.

The second feeding trial commenced in January, 2015 with approximately 115, three hundred kg heifers allocated to 8 pens in the Insentec feedlot barn.  All heifers were fed a common growing ration with 4 pens receiving Elora well water and 4 pens Bauer Energy Design treated water.  After 84 days on the growing diet, all cattle were placed on finishing diets in April with 2 pens on each water treatment receiving a control finishing diet and 2 pens on each water treatment receiving a finishing diet containing 25% DDGS to increase the amount of dietary sulphur consumed by cattle. Approximately 50% of the cattle were slaughtered at a commercial packing plant on August 17, 2015 with the remainder slaughtered on August 31, 2015.  Strip loins were collected from each animal with longissimus muscle steaks aged for 3, 7, 14, 21, and 28 days for instrumental tenderness evaluation using Warner-Bratzler shear force.  In general, there were no differences (P > 0.10) across water source for water quality (Table 5), growth performance and carcass traits (Table 7), and meat quality (Tables 8 and 9) traits.  While gains were similar (P > 0.12; Table 7) between the control and Bauer Energy Design water sources in the growing and finishing phases, total gains over the whole trial were lower (P < 0.03; Table 7) for cattle supplied with Bauer Energy Design water.  Cattle supplied with Bauer Energy Design water had less (P < 0.04; Table 7) back fat which is most likely responsible for greater (P < 0.02; Table 7) CBGA lean yield values.  Surprisingly strip loins from cattle supplied with Bauer Energy Design water were more tender (P < 0.04; Table 8) based on lower shear force values than beef from cattle supplied with untreated water.  While the finishing diet containing DDGS had lower amounts of available energy and starch than the control based high moisture corn (HMC) diet (Table 6), there were generally no differences (P > 0.14; Table 7) in most growth performance traits with the exception of greater (P < 0.05; Table 7) adjusted average daily gains over the whole trial for cattle fed DDGS in the finishing phase.  While DDGS was incorporated into the diet to provide over 0.3% sulfur, there were no problems found with cattle fed DDGS and there were no water source x diet interactions (P > 0.18; Table 7) for growth performance traits.  Cattle fed DDGS were fatter than cattle fed the control diet with greater (P < 0.01; Table 7) back fats and lower (P < 0.01; Table 7) values for CBGA lean yield.  The beef from cattle fed DDGS was more tender (P < 0.02; Table 8) than beef from cattle fed the control diet based on lower shear force values.  Water source and(or) finishing ration did not affect the improvements in tenderness achieved with postmortem ageing (Table 9).

The third feeding trial commenced in February, 2016 with 128 steers allocated to 8 pens in the Insentec feedlot barn with 16 head per pen.  Four of the pens were supplied with untreated well water while 4 pens were supplied with water treated using the Bauer Energy Design system.  In each pen, half the cattle were fed a low haylage diet with approximately 15% alfalfa haylage (dry matter basis) with the other half being fed a high haylage diet with approximately 20% alfalfa haylage (dry matter basis).  Four pens of cattle were fed a finishing diet with at least 73% high moisture corn (dry matter basis) while the other four pens were fed diets containing 52 to 54% high moisture corn and 25 to 28% DDGS (dry matter basis).  This resulted in 4 finishing diets:  low haylage diet with no DDGS, high haylage diet with no DDGS, low haylage diet with DDGS, high haylage diet with DDGS; all the diets were fed with cattle receiving untreated or Bauer Energy Design treated water. Water quality as not affected by treatment with the Bauer Energy Design system (Table 10).  There were generally no effects of water source on growth performance (Table 12), carcass (Table 13), and meat quality (Table 14) traits with the exception of leaner (P < 0.04; Table 13) carcasses based on rib dissection for carcasses from cattle supplied with Bauer Energy Design water.  The amount of haylage and(or) DDGS in the diet generally did not affect (P > 0.10) most growth performance (Table 12) and carcass (Table 13) traits with the exception of better feed efficiency when DDGS was eliminated from the diet. Water source and(or) finishing ration did not affect the improvements in tenderness achieved with postmortem ageing (Table 15).

In general, there were no beneficial effects on growth performance, carcass, and meat quality traits when the Bauer Energy Design water treatment system was used to supply the drinking water for 3 sets of feedlot cattle fed as growing and(or) finishing cattle.   The lack of response to the Bauer Energy Design water treatment may be associated with the high quality of the untreated well water that is found at the University of Guelph’s Elora Beef Research Centre.

 


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