Skip to main content
ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #337858

Title: Management characteristics of beef cattle production in the western United States

item Asem-Hiablie, Senorpe
item Rotz, Clarence - Al
item Stout, Robert
item FISHER, KATHLEEN - National Cattlemen'S Beef Association (NCBA)

Submitted to: Professional Animal Scientist
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/21/2017
Publication Date: 7/27/2017
Citation: Asem-Hiablie, S., Rotz, C.A., Stout, R.C., Fisher, K. 2017. Management characteristics of beef cattle production in the western United States. Professional Animal Scientist.33(4):461-471.

Interpretive Summary: The demand for high quality beef protein is growing worldwide. However, the future sustainability of beef production is of concern because it is perceived to cause air and water quality problems. This has led the U.S. beef industry to commence a comprehensive national assessment of the sustainability of beef. This assessment involves characterizing beef production systems in the seven main cattle producing regions of the U.S. and quantifying their performance and environmental impact. Production information collected through producer surveys and interviews in the Northwest and Southwest regions are reported. These data are being used to simulate representative production systems for assessment of the environmental impacts of full cattle production systems in the western region.

Technical Abstract: A comprehensive life cycle assessment (LCA) of beef in the United States is being conducted to provide benchmarks and identify opportunities for improvement of the beef value chain. Region-specific data are being collected to accurately characterize cattle production practices. This study reports production information obtained via online surveys and on-site visits from two of seven regions: the Northwest (Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming) and the Southwest (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah). Ranch responses included operation sizes ranging up to 28,500 cows and in total, represented about 3% of the beef cows maintained in both regions according to the inventory of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Feedlot responses included operations ranging in capacities from 30 head to 150,000 head and in total represented 33% and 19% of cattle finished in the Northwest and Southwest, respectively according to NASS. Management information collected included operation size, stocking rates, feed production and use, housing facilities, animal types and body weight, diets, and machinery, energy, and labor use. Few differences in management were found between these two regions due primarily to the relatively dry conditions that prevail across much of the western U.S. There was a trend toward smaller ranches in the Southwest. Stocking rates were relatively low in both regions, but a little lower in the Southwest. More feed crops were grown on ranches and feedlots in the Northwest. A greater portion of Holstein cattle were finished in the Southwest due to the large number of cull calves available from the dairy industry in this region. Information gathered provides insights into the production characteristics needed for modeling and evaluating production systems and conducting a comprehensive beef LCA.