Whole Farm Planning for Grass-fed Beef
Research trials and case studies with producers are underway to assess whole farm planning for production of grass-fed beef. Producers have learned about production and direct marketing of grass-fed beef and defined the constraints involved in production on their farms. Preliminary data from research trials have evaluated performance on forage systems with some new observations of relationships such as supplementation with soyhulls on pasture systems did not decrease CLA content of the meat as has been reported with grain supplementation. Complete information on the project is being compiled now.
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.
This past year was spent meeting with researchers for complete reports and presentations of their findings. This meeting was also open to the producers who were cooperators of the project with questions and answers from both groups. Preliminary data from the taste panel shows that the flavors were all acceptable.
A meeting was held with the producer cooperators to determine what they have learned, and how their thoughts have changed regarding the use of their farm for the production of grass-fed beef. They filled out the Beef Farm Sustainability Checksheet again. This information is being written into case studies. All the producers have determined different parts of their farm they need to work on. For some, this is continuing to improve their grazing management. For others, it has meant buying bulls with good carcass EPDs. Still other producers have thought they need to change their cow herd. One thing we’ve seen is that land use has changed during the project. Producers are looking to graze more of their land, and working on pasture management.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
A very significant milestone is the formation of a Limited-Liability Cooperation (LLC) with nine of the cooperators, for the purpose of selling grass-finished beef. Even though we did not have as a direct objective the marketing of grass-finished beef, we were able to market most of what was raised in the project. These producers were so excited at the success of that marketing, they wanted to formalize the venture. The information gained from the project helped lessen the risk and taught everyone what it takes to produce a quality beef product from grass.
Presentations have been made at the American Society of Animal Science and at various sustainable livestock workshops in the South. Through the ATTRA project, many producers have been informed of our findings.