Performance and carcass characteristics of steers fed with two levels of metabolizable energy intake during summer and winter season

Climate change is producing an increase on extreme weather events around the world such as flooding, drought and extreme ambient temperatures impacting animal production and animal welfare. At present, there is a lack of studies addressing the effects of climatic conditions associated with energy intake in finishing cattle in South American feed yards. Therefore, two experiments were conducted to assess the effects of environmental variables and level of metabolizable energy intake above maintenance requirements (MEI) on performance and carcass quality of steers. In each experiment (winter and summer), steers were fed with 1.85 or 2.72 times of their requirements of metabolizable energy of maintenance. A total of 24 crossbred steers per experiment were used and located in four pens (26.25 m(2)/head) equipped with a Calan Broadbent Feeding System. Animals were fed with the same diet within each season, varying the amount offered to adjust the MEI treatments. Mud depth, mud scores, tympanic temperature (TT), environmental variables, average daily gain, respiration rates and carcass characteristics plus three thermal comfort indices were collected. Data analysis considered a factorial arrangement (Season and MEI). In addition, a repeated measures analysis was performed for TT and respiration rate. Mean values of ambient temperature, solar radiation and comfort thermal indices were greater in the summer experiment as expected (P < 0.005). The mean values of TT were higher in steers fed with higher MEI and also in the summer season. The average daily gain was greater during summer v. winter (1.10 +/- 0.11 v. 0.36 +/- 0.06) kg/day, also when steers were fed 2.72 v. 1.85 MEI level (0.89 +/- 0.12 v. 0.57 +/- 0.10) kg/day. In summer, respiration rate increased in 41.2% in the afternoon. In winter, muddy conditions increased with time of feeding, whereas wind speed and rainfall had significant effects on TT and average daily gain. We conclude that MEI and environmental variables have direct effects on the physiology and performance of steers, including TT and average daily gain, particularly during the winter. In addition, carcass characteristics were affected by season but not by the level of MEI. Finally, due to the high variability of data as well as the small number of animals assessed in these experiments, more studies on carcass characteristics under similar conditions are required.

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