|Rotz, Clarence - Al|
|DILLON, JASMINE - Pennsylvania State University|
Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/23/2015
Publication Date: 5/15/2015
Citation: Rotz, C.A., Asem-Hiablie, S., Dillon, J., Bonifacio, H.F. 2015. Cradle-to-farm gate environmental footprints of beef cattle production in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Journal of Animal Science. 93:2509-2519.
Interpretive Summary: Both producers and consumers of animal products have concern for the sustainability of production systems. Added to these concerns is the need to increase production to meet the demand of a growing population worldwide with a desire for high quality protein. The beef industry has defined sustainability as meeting the growing demand for beef by balancing environmental responsibility, economic opportunity, and social diligence. Measuring sustainability is challenging, as the beef supply chain is one of the most complex food systems in the world. A methodology has been developed to characterize beef production systems nationwide and assess their performance and environmental impact. The first region for in-depth study is Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, the region maintaining 25% of the beef cows and finishing 37% of the beef cattle produced in the United States. Information collected from surveys and site visits in this region were used to model representative ranches and feedyards making up full cattle production systems. Model simulations gave representative values for various environmental impacts including cradle-to-farm gate footprints for greenhouse gas emissions, fossil energy use, non-precipitation water use, and reactive nitrogen loss for the beef cattle produced in this region. These data provide a baseline for comparison as new technologies and strategies are developed and implemented to improve the sustainability of beef cattle production.
Technical Abstract: A comprehensive national assessment of the sustainability of beef is being conducted by the U.S. beef industry. The first of seven regions to be analyzed is Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. A survey and visits conducted throughout the region provided data on common production practices. From these data, representative ranch and feedyard operations were defined and simulated for the varying climate and soil conditions throughout the region using the Integrated Farm System Model. These simulations predicted environmental impacts of each operation including cradle-to-farm gate footprints for greenhouse gas emissions, fossil energy use, non-precipitation water use and reactive nitrogen loss. Ranch and feedyard operations were linked to form 28 representative production systems. A weighted average of the production systems was used to determine the environmental footprints for the region where weighting factors were developed based upon animal numbers reported in survey and agricultural statistics data. Along with the traditional beef production systems, systems including Holstein steers and cull cows from the dairy industry in the region were also modeled and included. The carbon footprint of all beef produced was 18.4 ± 1.7 kg CO2 equivalents (CO2e)/kg carcass weight (CW) with the range in individual production systems being 13 to 25 kg CO2e/kg CW. Energy use, water use, and reactive nitrogen loss were 51 ± 4.8 MJ/kg CW, 2450 ± 450 liters/kg CW and 138 ± 12 g N/kg CW, respectively. The major portion of each footprint except water use was associated with the cow-calf phase; most of the water use was attributed to producing feed for the finishing phase. This information will be combined with processing, marketing and consumer data to complete a comprehensive life cycle assessment of the production and consumption of beef from the region.