Finishing feeding was evaluated as a way to improve carcass-, meat- and eating quality of culled dairy cows. In total, 125 Danish Friesian cows were purchased from commercial dairy herds. Cows were culled for various typical reasons at different stages of lactation, were non-pregnant and had milk yield at culling ranging from 1 to 25 kg/d and had LW varying from 330 to 778 kg. Cows were housed in tiestalls and had free access to barley straw and water during a 7-d drying-off period. Cows were allocated to three equal treatment groups based on parity, LW, BCS, and culling reason. A control group (C) was slaughtered immediately after drying-off (n=43), a group (F2) was finishing-fed for 63 days (n=41), and a group (F4) was finishing-fed for 126 days (n=41). In the finishing period, cows had free access to a TMR (10.6 MJ ME and 130 g CP per kg of DM). Cows on treatment, F2 and F4 gained 1.16§0.05 kg/d in the finishing period. Compared with C-cows, F2- and F4-cows had 56 and 97 kg higher carcass weight, 10% and 21% larger Longissimus muscle area, and 14 and 70% more backfat, respectively, at time of slaughter. EUROP conformation scores were 2.2 (C), 3.4 (F2) and 4.4 (F4) and EUROP fat scores were 1.9, 3.0 and 3.7. Finishing feeding increased IMF, improved meat flavour and colour, and tended to reduce shear force value and improve tenderness and juiciness. The F4 cows also had higher fat trim than C- and F2-cows. Cows were divided into two parity groups (1st parity and older cows). Compared with 1st parity cows, older cows ate 12% more feed, had similar daily gain, were heavier, and had higher BCS and fatness including IMF. The results show that it is possible to dry-off and finish-feed culled dairy cows resulting in larger muscles, increased fatness, improved overall carcass quality and better technological as well as sensory quality characteristics.
Meat Science, 2007, Vol 76, Issue 4, aug, p. 635-643