Whole Farm Planning for Grass-fed Beef
Research trials and case studies of farms are underway to assess whole farm planning for production of grass-fed beef. The intent is to evaluate the capability of marketing consistent quality meat from grass as well as monitor soil improvements, pasture quality, and cattle growth and health. Work to this date confirms the necessity of having a consistent supply of high quality forage. Management components such as calving season, preweaning and postweaning management, cattle type, choice of forages and supplemental feeding are very important in determination of a grass-fed beef production systems. Another key consideration is maintenance of health of the animals.
Develop an educational/research program to address the constraints in implementation of a whole farm plan for production of grass-fed beef.
Conduct case studies of 10 farms to monitor the decision-making process and investigate the factors limiting production of a pasture-fed beef carcass with a high degree of consistency and consumer acceptability.
Investigate animal and pasture relationships in production of pasture-based beef production to achieve a quality product.
The first objective was accomplished in that the learning team (36 participants from Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia and Oklahoma) was activated. The participants were farmers (12), NRCS personnel, university researchers, extension agents and ATTRA staff. Discussions during the conference were primarily on producing high quality, consumer acceptable grass-fed beef. The discussions were divided into four primary segments: animal, pasture, marketing and whole-farm planning.
The second objective is being carried out during the next phase as we work with individual farmers to determine their constraints in production of grass-fed beef. We have 11 farmers who have pooled cattle from their farms into a common “graze-out” phase from which cattle will be processed and marketed through the University of Arkansas meats lab. Carcass data and consumer acceptance data will be collected.
The third objective is being accomplished with collaborative research with the University of Tennessee and the University of Arkansas. One year of data collection by the University of Tennessee resulted in 89% of the cattle supplemented with soyhulls on pasture grading choice whereas only a few of the nonsupplemented cattle graded select. Another year of data collection is in process.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
This project is allowing all factors to be considered in production and marketing of gass-fed beef to be evaluated through research and on-farm cases studies. The primary importance is the application to whole farm planning in order for a producer to evaluate the farm resources (soils, forages, and animals) before making a decision on marketing grass-fed beef.