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J Anim Sci. 2006 Dec;84(12):3421-32.

Effects of phase-feeding of crude protein on performance, carcass characteristics, serum urea nitrogen concentrations, and manure nitrogen of finishing beef steers.

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  • 1USDA-ARS Conservation and Production Research Laboratory, Bushland, TX 79012, USA.


As cattle mature, the dietary protein requirement, as a percentage of the diet, decreases. Thus, decreasing the dietary CP concentration during the latter part of the finishing period might decrease feed costs and N losses to the environment. Three hundred eighteen medium-framed crossbred steers (315 +/- 5 kg) fed 90% (DM basis) concentrate, steam-flaked, corn-based diets were used to evaluate the effect of phase-feeding of CP on performance and carcass characteristics, serum urea N concentrations, and manure characteristics. Steers were blocked by BW and assigned randomly to 36 feedlot pens (8 to 10 steers per pen). After a 21-d step-up period, the following dietary treatments (DM basis) were assigned randomly to pens within a weight block: 1) 11.5% CP diet fed throughout; 2) 13% CP diet fed throughout; 3) switched from an 11.5 to a 10% CP diet when approximately 56 d remained in the feeding period; 4) switched from a 13 to an 11.5% CP diet when 56 d remained; 5) switched from a 13 to a 10% CP diet when 56 d remained; and 6) switched from a 13 to an 11.5% CP diet when 28 d remained. Blocks of cattle were slaughtered when approximately 60% of the cattle within the weight block were visually estimated to grade USDA Choice (average days on feed = 182). Nitrogen volatilization losses were estimated by the change in the N:P ratio of the diet and pen surface manure. Cattle switched from 13 to 10% CP diets with 56 d remaining on feed or from 13 to 11.5% CP with only 28 d remaining on feed had lower (P < 0.05) ADG, DMI, and G:F than steers fed a 13% CP diet throughout. Steers on the phase-feeding regimens had lower (P = 0.05) ADG and DMI during the last 56 d on feed than steers fed 13.0% CP diet throughout. Carcass characteristics were not affected by dietary regimen. Performance by cattle fed a constant 11.5% CP diet did not differ from those fed a 13% CP diet. Serum urea N concentrations increased (P < 0.05) with increasing dietary CP concentrations. Phase-feeding decreased estimated N excretion by 1.5 to 3.8 kg/steer and nitrogen volatilization losses by 3 to 5 kg/steer. The results suggest that modest changes in dietary CP concentration in the latter portion of the feeding period may have relatively small effects on overall beef cattle performance, but that decreasing dietary CP to 10% of DM would adversely affect performance of cattle fed high-concentrate, steam-flaked, corn-based diets.

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