Whole Farm Planning for Grass-fed Beef
The desired outcome of this project is for a learning team to assess how to develop a whole farm plan with the end product being a high quality grass-fed beef product for direct marketing. The objectives are: 1) to address the constraints in implementation of a whole farm plan for production of grass-fed beef. 2) to investigate, through farm case studies, the factors limiting production of a pasture-fed beef carcass with a high degree of consistency and consumer acceptability. 3) to investigate animal and pasture relationships in production of pasture-based beef production to ensure adequate information for producers to achieve a quality product.
The learning team, composed of farmers with interest or experience in producing grass-fed beef, university researchers, cooperative extension agents, NRCS personnel, and NCAT/ATTRA specialists, is to address objective #1 through participatory evaluation, using a study circle approach. The second objective is to do on-farm case studies using the strategy defined by the learning team. The third objective will be accomplished through research conducted by university faculty on the learning team on forage quality and quantity, animal growth and maturity type, and other factors that determine the consumer acceptability of grass-fed beef. In addition to forage data and animal growth data, meat characteristics including omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) will be measured.
The learning team will conduct a two-day workshop using results from the study circle, case studies and forage-animal research. This project will evaluate not only the capability of marketing consistent quality meat from grass, but also monitor soil improvements, pasture quality, cattle health and integration of enterprises on the farm to achieve the quality of life desired.
The learning team has been activated and objective #1 accomplished. A two-day conference was held in October with 36 participants from Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia and Oklahoma. The participants were farmers (12), NRCS personnel, university researchers, extension agents and ATTRA staff. Refer to www.attra.org/wholefarm for information on the conference. Discussions during the conference were primarily on “what we know” and “what we don’t know” about producing about producing high quality, consumer acceptable grass-fed beef. The discussions were divided into four primary segments: animal, pasture, marketing and whole-farm planning. The information will be used to determine research data collection priorities and data collection on 10 case study farms