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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: DEVELOPMENT AND ASSESSMENT OF A SYSTEM TO PRODUCE GRASS-FED BEEF FOR THE SOUTHERN GREAT PLAINS

Location: Forage and Livestock Production Unit

Title: The relevancy of forage quality to beef production

Authors
item Phillips, William
item Cole, Noel
item Horn, G -

Submitted to: Crop Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 30, 2010
Publication Date: March 1, 2011
Citation: Phillips, W.A., Cole, N.A., Horn, G.W. 2011. The relevancy of forage quality to beef production. Crop Science. 51:410-419.

Interpretive Summary: In the future all agricultural production systems will be asked to produce more tonnage of high-quality products to feed a growing world population. Competition for land and water resources by non-agricultural entities will force grazing livestock production systems to utilize marginal lands and to increase conversion efficiency of solar energy into food. In the future, beef production will shift from a cereal-based production system to one that is more dependent upon forages. The long-term sustainability of harvesting forages with grazing livestock is dependent upon the ability of land managers to respond to the ever-changing social values and to address the ecological and social consequences of resource management decisions.

Technical Abstract: Low cost and abundant fossil fuels have driven the USA beef industry toward greater dependence on feed grains as the major feedstuff for finished beef cattle production and has lead to a centralized beef cattle feeding and processing system concentrated in the High Plains states. Low cost fuel and mechanization of harvesting of forages allowed cow-calf producers to calve in late winter, which produced older heavier calves in the fall. The stocker industry evolved as a cushion between the cow-calf producer, stabilizing the flow of cattle into the feedlots and resulting in a steady flow out of the feedlots, through the processing plants and into the retail market. In the future, other domesticated species and bio-fuel demands will out bid beef cattle for feed grains and transportation of live and processed beef cattle will increase. As a result, a greater proportion of our finished beef supply must come from forage-based diets harvested by grazing beef cattle and the final product will be processed nearer to the consumer to lower food miles. Improving forage quality, extending the grazing season, selecting beef cattle that are efficient converters of forages into body weight gain, and developing sustainable forage-based grazing production systems will be imperative.

Last Modified: 9/1/2014