Effect of the administration of a molasses-based sugar liquid feed in partial replacement of starch on production performance, ruminal functionality, animal health and meat quality in fattening beef cattle

  • Carlo Angelo Sgoifo Rossi
  • Silvia Grossi Università degli Studi di Milano, Dipartimento VESPA
  • Riccardo Compiani
  • Gianluca Baldi
Keywords: sugar liquid feeds, beef cattle, efficiency, welfare


The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effect of a partial substitution of starch with sugar from molasses-based sugar liquid feed on growth performance, health status, ruminal parameters in fattening beef cattle under field conditions.

A total of 196 newly arrived male Charolaise cattle were assigned to two study groups: i) Control (n= 98; 424.26 ± 28.98 kg live weight), basal diet; ii) Treatment (n= 98; 412.85 ± 26.30 kg live weight), partial substitution of starch with sugar, through a reduction of 5.64 %, on dry matter basis, of  with  7.7%, on dry matter basis, of a molasses-based sugar liquid feed. Growth performances, dry matter intake (DMI), feed conversion rate (FCR), carcass characteristics, meat quality and health status were evaluated. Ruminal parameters, such as daily average pH and time below the threshold of 5.8, indicator of risk of acidosis, were evaluated on 10 animals per group using the alarms released by the ruminal boluses Smaxtec Premium

The treatment significantly improved the average daily gain (ADG) (1.486 vs 1.419 kg/head/d in the Control group) (P<0.001) and intermediate ones (1.493 vs 1.44 and 1.471 vs 1.360 kg/head day in the Control group respectively for ADG0-126 and ADG126-186) (P<0.001). Also, the intermediate (606.69 vs 600.98 kg in the Control group) and final weights (695.01 vs 682.56) were significantly higher (P<0.001) in the Treatment group. The average daily ruminal pH vas significantly lower in the Treatment group (6.68±0.30 vs 6.74±0.32 in the Control group) (P<0.05). The time spend under the threshold of 5.8 was significantly lower in treated animals (0.14 vs 0.67 h/d) (P<0.05). A tendency toward a significant effect of the treatment was found in the incidence of bovine respiratory disease (BRD) (19.58 vs 24.48 % in the Control group) (P<0.1). No significant differences were found in the incidence of lameness and mortality. The carcass weight was significantly higher in treated animals (413.26 vs 404.08 kg of carcass weight in the Control group) (P<0.001), while carcass characteristics weren’t affected. Meat colour was improved by the treatment in terms of red index (15.34 vs 14.29 in the Control group) (P<0.05) and chroma (19.83 vs 18.58 in the Control group) (<0.05).

In conclusion, using a molasses-based sugar liquid feed to substitute part of the starch sources can effectively improve the growth performance of beef cattle, due to the positive effects on health and   rumen activity. It can be, thus, a valuable strategy to improve sustainability, due to its effect on animal welfare, production efficiency, and circularity of the entire system.

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