How Cattle Genetics & Herd Management Decisions Impact Sustainability Outcomes

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U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef Pilot Project Demonstrates Economic and Environmental Benefits for Producers

Can genetic performance and herd management decisions in the backgrounder and feedyard sectors not only drive economic outcomes, but also improve environmental outcomes?

This was the question that K·Coe Isom, World Wildlife Fund, and Hy-Plains Feedyard set out to test through a unique assessment process that analyzed the impacts of multiple variables at the backgrounding and feedyard stages on key sustainability outcomes. The pilot project was recently recognized by the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB) and the preliminary results were presented at a USRSB meeting hosted by Hy-Plains Feedyard in Montezuma, Kansas on August 22, 2018.

Cow-Calf and Feedyard Analytics Help to Shed Light on Beef Value Chain

The pilot project analyzed multiple years of data across different populations of cattle at Hy-Plains feedyard and assessed numerous metrics aligned to the USRSB priority indicators for the cow-calf and feedyard sectors.

The good news is our initial tests demonstrate that economic and environmental outcomes are not always at odds; to be successful at driving change in the beef industry, they must work in tandem to help ranchers and feedyards demonstrate economic outcomes while improving environmental performance.

What can this pilot mean for the beef value chain?

  • Relationships Matter: Our initial findings demonstrate that the greatest opportunity to drive economic and environmental outcomes is by combining genetics and herd management decisions by backgrounders with finishing / herd management decisions at feedyards.
  • Economic Outcomes: The cattle genetics and herd management scenarios that we tested demonstrated that cattle in the test groups with known genetics had lower morbidity and mortality rates and a higher percentage of choice/prime as compared to the yard average. Costs of gain were also lower.
  • Environmental Outcomes: Cattle in the test groups with known genetics reduced CO2e emissions from enteric fermentation across the backgrounding and feedyard stages as compared to the yard average. Water usage for feed production was higher for the test cattle due to a greater amount of corn intake.
  • Opportunities to Drive Changes at Scale: Scaling these results will help inform management decisions, increase predictability and facilitate data sharing across the entire U.S. beef industry.

K·Coe Isom is immersed within the beef industry. One out of every four head of beef cattle in the U.S. is impacted by our clients. As a founding member of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, we know that the demands for information on beef production in the U.S. are growing. Contact our sustainability experts today to learn more.

Emily Johannes
Leading the ResourceMAX™ service, Emily assesses sustainability attributes such as water and energy use, soil conservation, and animal care and identifies areas of improvement. She advises progressive producers on using these performance metrics to their advantage, responding to customer demands, opening up sales opportunities, and negotiating with key business partners.
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