Title: Environmental footprints of beef production at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center Authors
Submitted to: American Society of Animal Science Annual Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: March 3, 2013
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: An interpretive summary is not required.
Technical Abstract: The environmental footprints of beef produced at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) in Clay Center, Nebraska were determined to quantify improvements achieved over the past 40 years. Relevant information for MARC operations was gathered and used to represent their production system with the Integrated Farm System Model. The MARC farm, cow calf and feedlot operations were each simulated over recent historical weather to evaluate performance, environmental impact and economics. The current farm operation included 840 ha of alfalfa and 1,160 ha of corn to produce feed predominately for the beef herd of 5,500 cows, 1,200 replacement heifers and 3,724 cattle finished per year. Spring and fall cow calf herds were fed on 9,710 ha of pastureland supplemented with hay and silage produced by the farm operation. Feedlot cattle were backgrounded 3 mo on hay and silage and finished over 7 mo on a diet high in corn grain and purchased wet distiller’s grain. Model simulated predictions for 2011 were within 1% of actual records for feed production and use, energy use, and production costs. A 25-year simulation of their current production system gave a carbon footprint of 10.9 kg of CO2e/kg BW sold, and the energy required to produce that beef (energy footprint) was 26.5 MJ/kg BW. Total water use (water footprint) was 21,300 l/kg BW sold, and the water footprint excluding that obtained through precipitation was 2,800 l/kg BW. Simulation of the production practices of 2005 indicate that the use of distiller’s grain in animal diets has had a relatively small impact on environmental footprints except that reactive nitrogen loss has increased 10%. Compared to 1970, the carbon footprint of the beef produced has decreased 6% with no change in the energy footprint and a 3% reduction in the reactive nitrogen footprint. The water footprint, excluding precipitation, has increased 42% due to greater use of irrigated corn production. These results support that progress has been made in reducing environmental footprints of beef produced at MARC.