Kathleen Delate, Robert Turnbull, Hannah N. Phillips, Bradley J. Heins
Meat from Holstein and crossbred organic dairy steers finished on winter rye and winter wheat pastures was evaluated and compared for meat quality, fatty acid and amino acid profiles, and consumer acceptability. Two adjacent 4-ha plots were established with winter rye or winter wheat cover crops in September 2015 at the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center (Morris, MN). During spring of 2015, 30 steers were assigned to one of three replicate breed groups at birth. Breed groups were comprised of: Holstein (HOL; n = 10), crossbreds comprised of Montbéliarde, Viking Red, and HOL (MVH; n = 10), and crossbreds comprised of Normande, Jersey, and Viking Red (NJV; n = 10). Dairy steers were maintained in their respective replicate breed group from three days of age until harvest. After weaning, steers were fed an organic total mixed ration of organic corn silage, alfalfa silage, corn, soybean meal, and minerals until spring 2016. Breed groups were randomly assigned to winter rye or winter wheat and rotationally grazed from spring until early summer of 2016. For statistical analysis, independent variables were fixed effects of breed, forage, and the interaction of breed and forage, with replicated group as a random effect. Specific contrast statements were used to compare HOL versus crossbred steers. Fat from crossbreds had 13% greater omega-3 fatty acids than HOL steers. Furthermore, the omega-6/3 ratio was 14% lower in fat from crossbreds than HOL steers. For consumer acceptability, steaks from steers grazed on winter wheat had greater overall liking than steers grazed on winter rye. Steak from crossbreeds had greater overall liking than HOL steers. The results suggest improvement in fatty acids and sensory attributes of beef from crossbred dairy steers compared to HOL steers, as well as those finished on winter wheat compared to winter rye.