Th Agriculture Department may have found a new way for farmers to beef up the weight of their cattle - feeding them cement dust.

Not only do cattle fed the dust gain weight faster but they also produce tastier meat.

It all started last year when three Georgia farmers fed some cement dust - which is high in calcium - to their cattle instead of using a lime supplement. They soon found the animals were gaining about four pounds of weight daily instead of the usual two pounds.

The farmers - Lee Barr, of Carrollton: Deil Barnett, of Collard Valley and Sam Floyd, of Pine Knot - contacted the department's Agricultural Research Service last January with their findings.

As a result, the agency has been experimenting by adding cement dust to cattle feed. Tests so far show that the cattle gained weight 30 per cent faster than those eating regular rations of grain and hay.

During a 112-day test at the department's Beltsville, Md., research center, seven steers fed dust along with their reations gained about there pounds a day, compared with 2.3 pounds gained by seven animals fed normal rations.

Two department scientists, William E. Wheeler and Robert R. Oltijen said they found no abnomalities when they examined the livers and other organs of slaughtered cattle which had thrived on the dust. Furthermore, the beef from the animals was of a higher grade - more tender and juicy - then beef from cattle fed regular rations.

The department said the dust-fed cattle graded an average of "top choice" while the other cattle averaged in the "top good" grade.