Winter feeding of weaned calves is becoming more common due to increasing amounts and diversity of feeds.  However, mitigating winter weather stress is required for good animal husbandry and profitable enterprises.  This study was conducted during the winters of 2001-2 and 2002-3 to evaluate steer performance, economic returns, and nutrient retention in manure.  Steer calves born and raised at the Carrington Research Extension Center (n=107) were randomly allotted to three bedding treatments for two consecutive years and fed a high concentrate diet (62 MCal/lb NEg) from November until ready for market in the spring.  The bedding treatments were no bedding, modest bedding, and generous bedding.  Feed intake (Table 1) was not affected by bedding treatment (P<.05).  However, weight gain responded positively (P<.05) to bedding in two of the four 28-day winter feeding periods.  Steers without bedding gained 2.82 lbs/d, modestly bedded steers gained 3.68 lbs, and generously bedded steers gained 3.53 lbs/d.  Feed efficiency tended to improve overall for bedded steers (P=.09).   Carcass quality traits (Table 2) were positively affected by bedding (P<.05).  Marbling score, the indicator for USDA carcass quality grade, improved with bedding as did the percent of carcasses grading choice.   Twenty three percent of carcasses from non-bedded steers graded USDA Choice vs. 45 percent for modest and 63 percent for generously bedded steers.  Economic return increased for bedded steers with a gross return of $756.92, $818.68, and $838.53, respectively, for no bedding, modest bedding, and generous bedding treatments.  With increasing amounts of bedding, nutrient losses were reduced in composted manure (Table 3).  Nitrogen losses were reduced from 65 percent for no bedding to 32 percent for modest bedding and 19 percent for generously bedded steers (Figure 1).  Potassium (K20) losses were also reduced with increased bedding, especially at the generous bedding level (Figure 2).  More work is underway to explore other bedding materials and management methods for limiting nutrient losses.





Text Box: Clean steers in bedded pens gained faster.


Text Box: Non-bedded steers carry significant manure tag.