ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT OF MIDWESTERN BEEF PRODUCTION SYSTEMS
Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research
2012 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
Compare the environmental footprints of a current beef production system in the Midwestern U.S. to those of a typical production system used 30 years ago.
1b.Approach (from AD-416):
The beef production system of ARS’s Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska, will be simulated using the Integrated Farm System Model. Model parameters will be determined through site visits and discussions with the managers of the operation. Available data from the center will be used to evaluate and support the simulation results. A typical production system of the 1970’s will also be modeled, and the simulation results of the two production systems will be compared to determine expected improvements made in reducing the environmental footprint and cost of beef production. This information will be provided to another organization that is developing a full life cycle assessment of beef production, processing, and use.
The work was initiated through two visits to the USDA/ARS Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska to learn their production practices and to gather data and information on their production system. Parameters were established for the Integrated Farm System Model that has enabled the simulation of their beef production system including farm, cow calf and feedlot operations. Preliminary simulations have provided measures of the carbon, energy and water footprints of the beef produced at the center along with the costs of producing that beef. Refinement of the model parameters is continuing to assure an accurate representation of the current production system. Plans are being made for representing their production system in 2005 and around 1970. These historical simulations will quantify the environmental and economic gains made through the use of distiller’s grain (not used prior to 2006) and the advances made in animal genetics and production and marketing practices over the past 40 years.