Whole Farm Planning for Grass-fed Beef

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2000: $214,069.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Principal Investigator:
Ann Wells
National Center for Appropriate Technology

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, parasite control, feed rations, pasture fertility, preventive practices, grazing - rotational, stockpiled forages, watering systems, winter forage
  • Crop Production: nutrient cycling
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, study circle, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, budgets/cost and returns, cooperatives, marketing management, feasibility study, market study, value added
  • Production Systems: holistic management, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures


    This report finalizes a multi-year, collaborative project with the National Center for Appropriate Technology, University of Arkansas Departments of Animal Science and Agricultural Economics, University of Tennessee Middle Tennessee Experiment Station and Department of Animal Science, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and multiple livestock producers.  Research conducted showed that quality grass-fed beef can be produced economically and that cattle can be supplemented with fiber-based supplements and not decrease the conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) content.  The project showed that cattle will gain well on pasture if they have access to a high availability of quality forage and that the degree of success is largely weather dependent.  Case studies indicated that not all farms have the same capability of producing grass-fed beef. Constraints are the genetic composition of the herd of cattle, the productive capability and fertility of the soils, the potential of producing winter and summer annuals for consistent availability of pasture on a year-round basis, a viable number of animals for market, and the mindset to be a good grazier.  The primary limiting constraint to be considered by a livestock producer for a production of grass-fed beef is the ability and time to develop a consistent and dependable market.  Several of the livestock producers involved in the case studies for this project formed a limited liability company for marketing their grass-fed beef.  Multiple publications on the research results have been published as well as several presentations at scientific meetings.  This grant will be followed with another SARE project transferring the results to livestock producers and educators throughout the southern region.

    Project objectives:

    1. Develop an educational/research program to address the constraints in implementation of a whole farm plan for production of grass-fed beef.

    2. Conduct case studies of 10 farms to monitor the decision-making process and investigate the factors limiting production of pasture-fed beef carcass with a high degree of consistency and consumer acceptability.

    3. Investigate animal and pasture relationships in production of pasture-based beef production to enable adequate information for producers to achieve a quality product.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.