Agriculture and Environment: Beef
Better Management Practices: Production Needs & Natural Processes
Such strategies can also reduce the overall costs of trying to maintain production throughout the year or at times when it is not in parallel with the productivity of the natural ecosystem.
Align nutritional needs
Management changes can involve animal genetics, calf timing, or animals' needs for lactation or weight gain being timed to coincide with peak pasture productivity. One way to manage natural resources and cattle production better is to align nutritional needs with natural processes through genetics.
Whether for meat or milk, improved genetics can more closely align animal needs with the productivity of the environment. Some breeds gain more weight on grass; if producers want to move into grass-finished beef, they need to concentrate on the genetics of the breeds they use.
If producers are going to avoid feedlot fattening operations and still produce choice carcasses, they will have to choose early-maturing breeds that can fatten on grass. Optimally, grass-fed beef should be slaughtered before their second winter. This means that late maturing, "lean," continental or European breeds do not fit a grass-based system as well as early-maturing "fat" breeds like Angus.
Avoid breeding during hottest months
Seasonal productivity can also help to increase income and reduce environmental impacts. Avoiding breeding during the hottest months of the year increases conception rates by 15 - 20%. In temperate regions, late spring and summer calving in combination with earlier weaning reduces feed requirements because it allows cows to winter largely from their own body reserves and dry grass.
In many areas, late calving provides the best fit between the cattle's nutritional requirements over their production cycle and the ranch's naturally produced forage. One ranch in the United States (Simmonds, no date) was able to decrease its total cost per pound of calf from over $0.90 - $0.62.
This was accomplished by understanding better the amount of forage available throughout the year, and the real costs of changing that by producing or buying forage out of season. Through this approach, the ranch was able to increase beef production while reducing overall costs.Leading the way - Quality Assured Beef
Quality Assured Beef, a European eco-label for beef, has guidelines that encourage a closer alignment of beef production with natural processes. It requires grazing in the summer, limits total grain consumption to 250 kilograms during the life of the animal, and prohibits use of hormones, implants, or artificial growth stimulants.