Monday, November 2, 2009: 4:15 PM
Convention Center, Room 317, Third Floor
Although beef cattle are widely distributed throughout the
US, and are year long residents, their calves must migrate hundreds of km to match feed supply with animal nutrient demands and to complete the production cycle. Calves move from the farm of origin through backgrounding on pasture to arrive in the High Plains (TX, OK, CO, KS and NE) for finishing and processing. Once finished beef cattle have been processed, wholesale cuts reverse the migratory path and are transported to retailers and eventually to the consumer. Low cost and abundant fossil fuels have driven the US beef industry toward greater dependence on feed grains as the major feedstuff for finished beef cattle production and have made the movement of calves and wholesale product relatively inexpensive. As the beef industry rose to the challenge of converting these large quantities of low-cost feed grains into a high-value protein-dense product, the unique ability of beef cattle to harvest and convert fibrous feedstuffs and by-products into a nutrient rich product was minimized. In the future, other domesticated species and bio-fuel demands will out-bid beef cattle for feed grains and the cost of transporting live and process beef cattle will increase. As a result, a greater proportion of our finished beef production must come from forage based diets harvested by grazing beef cattle and process nearer to the consumer. Improving forage quality, extending the grazing season, selecting beef cattle that efficiently convert forages into body weight gain, and developing sustainable forage based production systems will be imperative.