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Early metabolic imprinting events increase marbling scores in fed cattle.

  • Scheffler, J M1
  • McCann, M A
  • Greiner, S P
  • Jiang, H
  • Hanigan, M D
  • Bridges, G A
  • Lake, S L
  • Gerrard, D E
  • 1 Departments of Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg 24061.
Published Article
Journal of animal science
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2014
DOI: 10.2527/jas.2012-6209
PMID: 24243903


Early weaning of calves to a high concentrate diet results in greater fat deposition and suggests early postnatal metabolic imprinting events may be exploited as a management tool to improve cattle value. Our objective was to implement a short, high energy dietary intervention before a typical grazing period to manipulate intramuscular fat deposition in finishing cattle. Fall-born, Angus-sired steer calves (n = 24) were stratified by sire and randomly assigned to normal weaned (NW) or metabolic-imprinted (MIP) treatments. At 105 ± 6d (135kg), MIP calves were transitioned to a diet containing 20% CP and 1.26 Mcal/kg NEg. Metabolic-imprinted calves were fed ad libitum as a group. Normal weaned calves remained on their dam until 253 ± 6 d of age. At this time, treatment groups were combined and grazed for 156 d on a mixed summer pasture. Following the grazing phase, steers were adapted to a corn silage-based feedlot diet and performance was monitored on 28-d intervals. Calves were staged for harvest based on backfat endpoint (target 1.0 to 1.2 cm). Metabolic-imprinted calves were heavier (P < 0.05) than NW calves (341 vs. 265 ± 4.2 kg) at normal weaning age. During the grazing phase, NW steers gained more weight than (P < 0.05) MIP steers (0.69 vs. 0.35 ± 0.03 kg/d). Feedlot performance and USDA yield grade were similar (P > 0.20) between treatments. However, MIP steers produced heavier (P < 0.05) carcasses (564 vs. 524 ± 5.6 kg) with higher (P < 0.001) marbling scores (645 vs. 517 ± 23). Therefore, calves consuming a high concentrate diet for 148 d after early weaning produced higher quality carcasses. This suggests early weaning and feeding a high concentrate before grazing is a viable strategy to increase marbling deposition compared with a traditional production system.

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