Review: An overview of beef production from pasture and feedlot globally, as demand for beef and the need for sustainable practices increase

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Source: Science Direct

Abstract

Beef is a high-quality source of protein that also can provide highly desirable eating experiences, and demand is increasing globally. Sustainability of beef industries requires high on-farm efficiency and productivity, and efficient value-chains that reward achievement of target-market specifications. These factors also contribute to reduced environmental and animal welfare impacts necessary for provenance and social licence to operate. This review provides an overview of beef industries, beef production, and beef production systems globally, including more productive and efficient industries, systems and practices. Extensive beef production systems typically include pasture-based cow-calf and stocker-backgrounding or grow-out systems, and pasture or feedlot finishing. Cattle in pasture-based systems are subject to high levels of environmental variation to which specific genotypes are better suited. Strategic nutritional supplementation can be provided within these systems to overcome deficiencies in the amount and quality of pasture- or forage-based feed for the breeding herd and for younger offspring prior to a finishing period. More intensive systems can maintain more control over nutrition and the environment and are more typically used for beef and veal from dairy breeds, crosses between beef and dairy breeds, and during finishing of beef cattle to assure product quality and specifications. Cull cows and heifers from beef seedstock and cow-calf operations and dairy enterprises that are mostly sent directly to abattoirs are also important in beef production. Beef production systems that use beef breeds should target appropriate genotypes and high productivity relative to maintenance for the breeding herd and for growing and finishing cattle. This maximizes income and limits input costs particularly feed costs which may be 60% or more of production costs. Digital and other technologies that enable rapid capture and use of environmental and cattle performance data, even within extensive systems, should enhance beef industry productivity, efficiency, animal welfare and sustainability.

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