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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ECONOMIC PASTURE-BASED BEEF SYSTEMS FOR APPALACHIA (WVU) Project Number: 1932-21630-003-05
Project Type: Specific Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jun 01, 2008
End Date: May 31, 2013

Objective:
Grassland is an extensive natural resource in Appalachia. Basing beef production on pasture, from conception to slaughter, will add value to small farm production in the Appalachian area. This agreement supports a multi-state project and the goal of which is to provide production information by cooperatively studying soil, plant, animal and economics. The objective of this agreement is to provide information on winter stocker and heifer development/forage production systems. The Agreement has three specific goals: 1) Produce a 12-month supply of pasture-based beef by expanding the harvest window with retention of acceptable meat quality, 2) Develop criteria for pasture raised beef that define “the window of acceptability”, and 3) Develop tools for pasture-based beef producers to assess and manage risk. Each cooperating institution is responsible for research on particular phases of the production stream. Fieldwork to be conducted at West Virginia University will emphasize heifer development and stocker systems, soil fertility and pasture management. Objective 1: Produce a 12-month supply of pasture-based beef by expanding the harvest window with retention of acceptable meat quality. Subobjective 1.1: Evaluate the use of variation in frame scores of sire and dams and different creep grazing systems to expand the harvest window of grass-fed beef. Subobjective 1.2: Develop soil, plant species and plant/animal managements for heifer replacement and pasture finishing of cattle. 1.2.1 Heifer wintering systems. 1.2.2 A predictive model for sustained pasture production. 1.2.3 Alternative forage species and nitrogen sources. Subobjective 1.3: Quantify the costs, revenues, and profitability associated with a 12-month production system. Objective 2: Develop criteria for pasture raised beef that define “the window of acceptability”. Subobjective 2.1: Quantify performance efficiency of cattle in pasture-based forage systems. 2.1.1 Estimate residual feed intake (RFI) of forage-fed cattle. 2.1.2 Quantify actual intake of grazing cattle during finishing. 2.1.3 Evaluate utilization of nutrients from forage and their transformation into end products. 2.1.5 Identify life cycle risk factors relevant to meat quality. 2.1.6 Assess economic and market implications of end product production of differing grades. Subobjective 2.2: Define “window of acceptability” by relating animal production systems, meat quality and consumer parameters. Objective 4: Develop tools for pasture-based beef producers to assess and manage risk. Subobjective 4.2: Compare economics and risk potential of different soil, plant and animal systems supporting winter stock gain of at least 1 lb. per day. Subobjective 4.3: Develop risk-profitability decision tools for producers.

Approach:
A team of researchers in several disciplines will work together and will include soil scientists, soil microbiologist, agronomist, ruminant nutritionists, animal physiologist, agricultural economist and extension specialist. Experiments will be conducted in the field on stocker and heifer development systems as well as on the soil fertility, pasture production and management components, the results of which can also be applied to cow calf production, backgrounding and finishing. Economic and risk analyses will include all components and phases of the production cycle for marketing pasture-based finished beef. Residual feed intake and forage-use efficiency will be estimated from data under controlled conditions. Continuous-flow fermentation will be utilized to compare digestive kinetics and fermentation with products and byproducts of forages consumed during finishing. Data from experiments will be used to estimate and calibrate risk-profitability decision tools for producers. Potential revenues will be assessed under various live cattle market conditions to predict scenarios that favor marketing harvested grass-fed beef. Data will be obtained in grocery stores to determine consumers’ response to visual and taste characteristics, and their willingness to buy the product.

Last Modified: 11/25/2014
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