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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #335708

Research Project: Mitigating Emissions and Adapting Farm Systems to Climate Variability

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Title: Grazing supplementation and crop diversification on beef farm simulations in southern Brazil: a case study

item PEREIRA, CAROLINA - Federal University Of Rio Grande Do Sul
item PATINO, HAROLD - Federal University Of Rio Grande Do Sul
item HOSHIDE, AARON - University Of Maine
item ABREU, DANIEL - Universidade Federal De Mato Grosso
item Rotz, Clarence - Al
item NABINGER, CARLOS - Federal University Of Rio Grande Do Sul

Submitted to: Agricultural Systems
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/10/2018
Publication Date: 2/9/2018
Citation: Pereira, C.H., Patino, H.O., Hoshide, A.K., Abreu, D.C., Rotz, C.A., Nabinger, C. 2018. Grazing supplementation and crop diversification on beef farm simulations in southern Brazil: a case study. Agricultural Systems. 162:1-9.

Interpretive Summary: Beef cattle production is one of the most important agricultural systems in Brazil, and the Brazilian beef industry is under pressure to reduce its impact on global warming. Alternative production systems are being explored, so it is important to determine the relationship between environmental impact, beef and crop productivity and net economic returns for these different production systems. Whole farm simulation analyses showed that increased supplemental grain feeding reduced the carbon footprint of the beef produced but at an increased cost to the producer. Integration of soybean and cattle production reduced the carbon footprint while increasing farm profitability. Thus alternative production systems can be used in Brazil to benefit both global warming and the producer.

Technical Abstract: Economics and environmental footprints of beef cattle raised on natural pasture or combined with soybean in specific biomes are still not well evaluated. The objective of this research was to simulate and evaluate the economics of three common pastured beef grazing systems in southern Brazil along with estimations of carbon footprint measured as kg of CO2 equivalent per kg of body weight produced (BWP), water footprint (kg of water used/kg of BWP) and energy footprint (MJ of energy used/kg of BWP) using the Integrated Farm System Model version 4.2. Simulations were run for Angus beef cattle raised on natural pasture (NP), natural pasture with low levels of grain supplementation (NPS), and NPS combined with soybean production (NPSC). Net animal weight produced (kg/ha/year) increased 7.9% for NPS and NPSC when compared with the NP system. Natural pasture production costs per hectare was lower (US$ 114) than that of NPS (US$ 126) and NPSC (US$ 233), while NP had a net return per hectare only 2% greater compared to NPS. Even though the gross income from animal sales was 5% higher in NPS than NP, the elevated cost of purchased feeds reduced net return per hectare. While costs were higher for NPSC, diversifying into soybean production, a high value commodity for cash sale, was profitable resulting in 44% and 47% greater net return per hectare than NP and NPS, respectively. Natural pasture with low supplementation (NPS) decreased carbon footprint per kg of BWP by 2% when compared with NP due to faster weight gain from supplementation despite higher emissions from feed production. Furthermore, CF was also 6% lower for natural pasture combined with soybeans (NPSC) compared with NPS. However, the energy footprint and/or water footprint increased with the greater use of purchased feed (NPS and NPSC) and inputs required for feed and cash crop production (NPSC). It can be challenging to increase beef cattle productivity to lower GHG emissions while minimizing water and energy use.