Skip to main content
ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #389863

Research Project: Sustainable Intensification of Crop and Integrated Crop-Livestock Systems at Multiple Scales

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Title: Environmental sustainability assessment of beneficial management practices for US cow-calf operations

item THOMA, GREG - University Of Arkansas
item Rotz, Clarence - Al
item GALBRAITH, JESSICA - Texas A&M University
item WICKERSHAM, TRYON - Texas A&M University

Submitted to: National Cattlemens Beef Association Annual Meeting
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/17/2022
Publication Date: 3/17/2022
Citation: Thoma, G., Rotz, C.A., Galbraith, J., Wickersham, T. 2022. Environmental sustainability assessment of beneficial management practices for US cow-calf operations. National Cattlemens Beef Association Annual Meeting. Pg 1.

Interpretive Summary: No Interpretive Summary is required for this Other 115. JLB.

Technical Abstract: Beef producers in the U.S. have long been guided by efforts to increase productivity, decrease costs, and minimize environmental impacts, all of which directly support sustainable production systems. There is increasing public awareness and concern regarding environmental effects of agriculture in general and beef production specifically. There is a gap between our understanding of these impacts and our ability to make informed decisions to guide changes in breeding, feeding, manure management and other production practices to improve environmental sustainabily. Our objective was to evaluate a series of beneficial management practices (BMPs) for a cradle-to-gate sustainability assessment of U.S. beef production systems by linking the Integrated Farm System Model (IFSM) with a life cycle assessment software platform to provide full system evaluation of multiple environmental impact categories. Archetypical production systems across the US were constructed using IFSM simulations to supply lifecycle inventory flows for lifecycle impact assessment. The methodology is available for repeating this assessment in the future enabling evaluation of progress over the intervening time. Thus, longitudinal comparisons documenting continual improvement through time are supported by this framework. The impact assessment framework does not include an accounting for potential beneficial effects to ecosystem services associated with cattle ranching. This study characterizes the sustainability characteristics of US beef production and can serve as indicators for potential reductions in impacts driven by adoption of BMPs. It also provides basis for communication with consumers, including the food service and retail sectors regarding pathways to more sustainable production.