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Agricultural News

Keeping Up with Sustainability in the Cattle Business

Wed, 16 Sep 2015 17:43:14 CDT

Keeping Up with Sustainability in the Cattle Business Most cattlemen and women recognize their farms and ranches in the definition of sustainability. That's according to Oklahoma State University Assistant Professor Dr. Sara Place.

"It's producing safe, nutritious beef for human consumption, but doing it with long-term business viability, stewardship of natural resources and responsibility to community, family and animals," Place said. "And so that's something that a lot of producers probably can say, you know, that's what I do already. And really what's encompassed within that definition is economics, environmental issues and social issues."

Yet sustainability can be hard to quantify. That's why the beef community has focused more on measuring and improving in the last decade. National Cattlemen's Beef Association Director of Sustainability Kim Stackhouse-Lawson said research from NCBA points out the good news.

"Our sustainability research shows that beef sustainability has improved overall by five percent in just six years," Stackhouse-Lawson said. "And then if we focus just on social and environmental sustainability, it's improved seven percent. So that's really a fantastic story. Most of those improvements have come from optimizations and efficiency gains through the system. So, improvements in crop yield, improvements in animal performance, machinery technology, and then also on the post-harvest side."

Profitability and sustainability often go hand-in-hand.

"So if you're a rancher, you know that can be just thinking about things like your reproductive rates, right?," Place said. "Making sure you're actually getting cows bred, that you're producing calves from those cows, your cow herd. Um all those things that you would do again from an economic perspective that make a lot of sense is also probably going to be the best way for you to convert the grass base, the forage that your using on your land into human usable products."

Aligning beef production with specific consumer demands is part of the equation, too.

"The fact that we have sixth and seventh and eight generation ranchers at this point is, um, a telltale sign that we've been sustainable for a long time," Stackhouse-Lawson. "We need to be, continue to be, more sustainable, just like we have with every generation."

The beef industry is full of history and stories of improving on that historical base.

"Everybody's a part of agriculture, right?," Place said. "One hundred percent of us are eaters, right? Even if, even if ninety percent, eighty percent of those eaters really don't have anything to do with the production of food, but we all participate in the agricultural system, the food system in that way. And so we all have a role to play in reducing food waste or thinking about ways we can use that waste in positive ways."

This video news is provided by CAB and the American Angus Association.



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