Livestock Research for Rural Development 30 (5) 2018 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Growth of beef cattle fed palm kernel meal on a feedlot in Papua New Guinea

Alex Nugi and Gariba Danbaro

The Papua New Guinea University of Technology, Department of Agriculture, PMB, Lae, Papua New Guinea


This study was carried out to analyse average daily gains (ADG) of beef cattle and estimate the effect of genotype, calf sex and age of dam on this trait. The cattle were fed between 77.5% and 88.5% of palm kernel meal (PKM) at different stages of growth on a feedlot in a hot humid area of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The data was on 384 records of four cattle genotypes which are crossbreds of Droughtmaster (DM) and Brahman (BR) breeds (50%DM:50%BR; 75%DM:25%BR and 25%DM:75%BR) and four age of dam groups (6.5yr, 6.5-9yr and >9yrs). A linear model was fitted to the data which included sex, genotype and age of dam group as explanatory factors. Only sex had an effect on ADG (p<0.0001) and the estimates of ADG of male (n=303) and female (n=81) cattle were 0.84±0.021 kg/d and 0.64±0.029 kg/d respectively. The overall ADG was 0.82±0.01 kg/d which is lower than that reported in the literature on beef cattle which were fed PKM elsewhere. Since the production of oil palm is an important and growing industry in PNG, it is hoped that the use of the PKM by-product as cattle feed will become more efficient. This study could therefore contribute to a better understanding of the factors that influence growth of beef cattle which are fed PKM in PNG.

Key words: beef cattle, droughtmaster, brahman, feedlot, average daily gains


Cattle growth, in the form of average daily gains (ADG), is monitored by beef cattle producers as it indicates how efficiently animals are growing and whether expected market weight targets can be achieved or not. Generally, beef cattle which have higher ADG will reach market weight earlier, thereby reducing the cost of meat production. Knowledge of ADG can be used to manipulate the feed given to the animal so that the mature weight can be reached at the desirable time. Both genetic and non-genetic factors affect ADG of beef cattle (Parish 2013). Variation in ADG exists between and within breeds of beef cattle (Swiger 1961). The main non-genetic factors which affect ADG include composition, nutrient content and intake of the diet; body condition, health status (Smith 1998); stress (Mader 2003); sex and age of the of the animal; the use of growth promotant (Danbaro, 2005), as well as previous management practices before entry into the feedlot. Age of dam also has an important effect on the growth of cattle especially before weaning (Rumpf et al 2004, Roffeis and Muench 2007).

In PNG, most of the estimated 80,000 head of beef cattle are owned by large scale commercial farms some of which use locally available feeds such as molasses and PKM as well as growth promotants to finish cattle in a feedlot system (Vincent and Low 2003, Danbaro 2005, Bourke and Harwood 2009). One important reason for using locally available feedstuffs is to reduce feed cost while minimizing wastage and the harmful effects of by-products on the environment. Agro-industrial by-products which are available and suitable for feeding cattle in PNG include PKM, molasses, copra meal, oil palm effluent, wheat millrun cocoa pods, rice bran and coffee pulp. PKM is a dry and gritty by-product obtained from the kernel of the oil palm after oil has been extracted from it. Estimates of organic matter digestibility and energy content of expeller extracted PKM are 68.6 ± 5.3%, and 11.6 MJ/kg respectively (Feedipedia, 2018). Due to its high fibre and cell wall constituents, PKM is more suitable for feeding ruminants than monogastrics. In Malaysia, recommended inclusion rates of PKM in compound feeds for both local and crossbred beef cattle is 50-80% (Mohammed and Alimon, 2003). Oil palm is a significant and rapidly increasing export crop in PNG which accounted for about 56% of the total value of the country’s agricultural exports in 2015 and total land area used for cultivating this crop was 136,179 hectares (Elahi and Michael 2017).

Even though it is widely accepted that poor growth is a major factor that affects beef cattle production in most tropical countries, there is little or no information on the growth performance of beef cattle which are fed palm kernel meal and other by-products in PNG. Vincent and Low (2003) noted that the animal production industry in PNG could benefit immensely from the recording and dissemination of performance indicators as this will allow individual producers to benchmark their performance and also provide a guide to changes in overall industry performance. The aim of this paper was therefore to study the influence of some genetic and environmental factors on the growth rates of beef cattle in PNG. The specific objective was to analyse ADG of beef cattle and estimate the effect of calf genotype, calf sex and age of dam of calf on this trait.

Material and methods


Data used for this study was obtained from the feedlot section of Numondo Beef Cattle Ranch located about 6oS near Kimbe in West New Britain Province (WNBP) of PNG. A large part of the land area is flat elevated to an altitude of 10m above sea level with only a few sloped areas. The area has a hot and humid tropical climate with seasonal rainfall. The rainy season occurs from October to February with a maximum of over 2000mm/month while the dry season occurs between March and September with less than 1000mm/month. Mean temperature is about 28-35°C maximum during December to February and 18-24°C between March and May.

Animals and management practices

The ranch raises Droughtmaster and Brahman cattle breeds for beef production. The breeding herd was rotationally grazed at a stocking rate of 3.15 AE/ha in a ‘half stand’ pasture system which consists of two rows of oil palms interspaced with 20m pasture plants (Photo 1). The two main pasture plants are signal grass (Brachiaria decumbens) and humidicola grass (Brachiaria humidicola). Calves with high potential for beef production are selected from the breeding herd and moved to the feedlot immediately after weaning at six months of age. Animals in the feedlot were kept in different pens according to live weights and sex and are given chopped green forage twice a day and a feed concentrate once a day. The feed concentrate was prepared on site using palm kernel expeller meal (PKM), molasses (MOL), a mineral mix (MIN) and urea (URE). The proportions of these ingredients in the concentrate were changed slightly according to the weight and age of the animals as shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Composition of feedstuffs in diet of cattle at different ages

Age of
cattle (mo)

Composition of feedstuff (%)

Palm kernel meal


Mineral mix

















Water was piped into water troughs in the feedlot and was freely available at all times. Prime bulls and heifers averaged 520kg and 450kg respectively at slaughter.

Photo 1. The grazing area between rows of oil palms

For the purpose of this study, data collected between 2001 and 2003 on ADG, sex, age of dam and breed of 384 feedlot cattle were made available by the ranch. ADG of the feedlot cattle was calculated as the difference between live weight at weaning and at slaughter divided by the number of days within that period. The data covered four cattle genotypes namely, pure Droughtmaster (DM) and its crossbreds with the Brahman (BR) breed namely 50%DM:50%BR; 75%DM:25%BR and 25%DM:75%BR.

Data analysis

Least squares analysis of variance (ANOVA) (Steel and Torrie, 1984) was carried out on the ADG data, fitting a linear model which, in statistical notation was:

Y ijk = Si + Gj + Ak + e ijkl

Where Yijk was the average daily gain (ADG) of a calf of the ith sex belonging to the jth genotype and kth age of dam group; Si was the ith sex of the calf (male or female); Gj was the jth calf genotype (100%DM, 50%DM:50%BR; 75%DM:25%BR and 25%DM:75%BR); Ak was the kth age of the dam group (< 6.5 yrs., 6-6.9 yrs &, >9.5 yrs.) and eijkl was the residual.

Results and discussion

Results of ANOVA showed that sex effected ADG (p = 0.000) but there were no effects of genotype (p = 0.76) and age of dam ( p = 0.30) on ADG. The least squares mean ADGs for sex, genotype and age of dam groups are shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Least squares average daily gains (ADG) of beef cattle



ADG (kg/d)






























Age of Dam

<6.5 years




6.5 to 9years*








* DM is Droughtmaster and BR is Brahman cattle
Means in the same factor level without common letter are different at p<0.05

Male cattle had higher ADG than female cattle (Table 1). It is a widely accepted fact that male cattle generally grow faster than female cattle (Ford and Klindt 1989, Link et al 2007, Bureš and Bartoň 2012) and this is often attributed to the production of testicular growth factors in male cattle (Davis et al 1984). However, ADG of the three genotypes in this study were similar and this was probably due to previous selection efforts on the ranch which ensured that only high performing genotypes which could produce a more or less uniform product to meet the market demand were kept on the ranch. ADG of the three age-of-dam categories were also found to be similar. This result is different from other published results which found that calf ADG tends to increase with dam age up to about 8 or 9 years after which it decreased (Elzo et al 1987, Rumpf et al 2004, Zampar et al 2006, Raphaka and Dzama 2009, Da Silva et al 2016).

The overall mean ADG of cattle was found to be 0.82±0.01 kg/d. As would be expected of feedlot cattle generally, this ADG is much higher than the ADG of 0.36-0.50 kg/d for different groups of steers and entire males which were fed native and improved pastures and growth hormones on a ranch in PNG as reported by Danbaro (2005). However the mean ADG in this study is comparable to the 0.6-0.8 kg/d for the local cattle but lower than the 1-1.2 kg/day for local crossbred cattle which were fed PKM in Malaysia (Mohammed and Alimon 2003). The mean ADG found in this study is also lower than those reported for beef cattle feedlot operations which were fed other types of feeds in Australia (Forster 2018) and USA (Anderson 2012).



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Received 4 April 2018; Accepted 8 April 2018; Published 1 May 2018

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