Agroscope Liebefeld-Posieux Research Station ALP, rte de la Tioleyre 4, 1725 Posieux

Extensive steer fattening including a summering period

In Switzerland, many mountain pastures risk to be abandoned in the near future due to a decreasing number of summered cattle on mountain pastures. In order to avoid scrub invasion and reforestation, one solution consists in developing alternative utilization schemes and in extensifying these areas. The effect of a reduced stocking rate on fattening performance of steers was investigated on a mountain pasture. In three series with each time 60 crossbred steers (Limousin x Red Holstein) from milk cow herds, three stocking rates, i.e. 1.8 (control), 1.6 and 0.6 LAU/ha, were tested on unfertilised pastures located in the Jura mountains (1126 m above sea level). The steers were summered in their second year of life.The differing stocking rates had a marked effect on animal performance realized during the summering period. By decreasing the stocking rate, it was possible to extend the grazing period and to increase individual growth rate. Pasture productivity in terms of live weight gain per ha was comparable for the stocking rates 1.8 and 1.2 LAU/ha. At 0.6 LAU/ha, however, the improved individual growth rates did not completely compensate for the reduced stocking rate. At the end of the summering period, carcass quality did generally not meet market requirements with respect to fatness score and, to a lesser extent, with respect to carcass conformation (meatiness). In conclusion, the extensification of mountain pastures and their utilization for fattening steers or heifers seems to be a promising alternative to abandoning these areas as pastures for dairy cattle. In general, it is necessary to finish the animals after the summering period.

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