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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Research Project #432378

Research Project: Environmental Assessment of the U.S. Beef Production Systems, Phase 4

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Project Number: 8070-66000-001-04-T
Project Type: Trust Fund Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Dec 15, 2016
End Date: May 31, 2018

To determine farm gate environmental footprints of beef production systems in the U.S. and develop production information to support a full life cycle assessment of beef. Specific plans for this period are to: • Gather cattle production information through producer surveys and visits in the Southeast and Northeast regions of the U.S. • Simulate representative operations to evaluate and document the environmental impacts of beef cattle produced in these regions. • Supply regional information on feed and cattle production and their environmental impacts to collaborators at the University of Arkansas to conduct a full chain life cycle assessment.

In collaboration with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other beef producer organizations, a survey of the industry in the two regions will be conducted to determine the characteristics of common production practices. Surveys will be conducted for ranches and farms producing calves and stockers and feeding operations producing finished cattle. Visits will also be made to at least 15 ranch, farm, and finish operations in each region to gather further data and information on production practices. The survey and visit data will be summarized to document ranch, farm, and feedlot characteristics throughout each region such as animal numbers, stocking rates, feed production and use, animal production, energy use, and other major resource inputs. The survey and visit information, along with data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service and similar sources, will be used to set parameters in the Integrated Farm System Model (IFSM) for simulating representative cow-calf, stocker, and finish operations of each region. Simulation of the representative operations will provide information on various environmental impacts and the cradle to farm gate partial life cycle carbon, energy, water, and reactive nitrogen footprints for the cattle produced. Simulated data from individual operations will be combined through a weighted averaging procedure to obtain values for each full region. Appropriate information obtained through the surveys, visits, and simulations will be provided to collaborators at the University of Arkansas for their use in developing a full life cycle assessment of beef production, processing, and use for the U.S.