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Title: Management characteristics of grassfed beef operations in the northeast

item DILLON, JASMINE - Pennsylvania State University
item Rotz, Clarence - Al

Submitted to: Progressive Forage Grower
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/21/2016
Publication Date: 3/1/2016
Citation: Dillon, J., Rotz, C.A. 2016. Management characteristics of grassfed beef operations in the northeast. Progressive Forage Grower. p. 1. Available:

Interpretive Summary: An interpretive summary is not required.

Technical Abstract: Much information is being circulated on resource use, environmental impact, and overall sustainability of beef, but finding scientifically sound information is difficult. In an effort to address consumer concerns, a comprehensive analysis is being conducted across the beef industry. As a significant and growing proportion of the U.S. beef market, grassfed beef production is included in this national study. To learn more about grassfed beef, we surveyed and interviewed producers in the northeastern U.S. to document production practices. We asked them about herd characteristics, animal performance, land management practices, and general marketing practices. The majority (87%) of operations were cow-calf to finish, 10% were finish only, and 3% were cow-calf operations which specified that their calves were marketed to grass-finishers. The typical farm had 20 to 24 cows, 1 bull, 5 to 8 replacement heifers, and 17 to 25 finishing animals. The middle 50% of producers were finishing cattle in 20 to 26 months at 1,000 to 1,180 pounds. The average daily gain from birth to finish was between 1.4 and 1.8 pounds per day. Of the total land represented in the survey, 70% was grazed land and 30% was cropland. About half of the producers who responded to the survey reported they were either not replanting pastures, or only doing so every 20 years or more. Most producers required supplemental feed to carry their herd through the winter. Dry hay was by far the most common purchased feed, followed by alfalfa or grass silage. The vast majority (89%) of producers reported marketing all or some of their beef products directly to the end consumer; 23% reported marketing directly to a retailer, 14% to a distributor or wholesaler, and 24% to multiple outlets. Most producers were not using an official grassfed label. This information will contribute science-based estimates of resource use and environmental impacts to the literature, and validate marketing claims for the grassfed beef industry.