New Mexico, Texas researchers seek economical, sustainable beef management practices
Precision ranching is a focus of a new Coordinated Agricultural Project led by New Mexico State University, NMSU, in collaboration with Texas A&M AgriLife Research in Amarillo.
Working under an almost $9 million U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant are AgriLife Research scientists Brent Auvermann, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center-Amarillo director and agricultural engineer, and Jenny Jennings, Ph.D., beef nutritionist, Amarillo.
The project’s goal is to improve efficiency of beef production by identifying socioeconomic and environmental trade-offs associated with heritage cattle genetics, precision ranching and various supply chain options, including range finishing.
“We’re aiming to diversify options for arid lands ranchers and the U.S. beef industry as they work to maintain and improve the sustainability of beef production in the Southwestern U.S.,” said Sheri Spiegal, Ph.D., U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, USDA-ARS, Jornada Experimental Range.
This five-year project will compare heritage vs. conventionally used desert-adapted cattle in studies on profitability, input efficiency, ecosystem effects, feed yard performance, and carcass and meat quality.
“This project is reaching back into history for cattle genetics and forward into the future for advanced technologies,” Auvermann said. “The Criollo genetics bring arid-lands hardiness to the table, while advanced sensors and communications systems make it possible to manage extensive landscapes in near real time.”
“Because we’re looking for subtle differences in feed-to-gain performance and meat quality, we’ve got to have precise control of the finishing phase for these cattle,” Jennings said. “Our research feedlot at Bushland gives us that control.”
Each fall, processing and carcass trials will take place at the Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Amarillo.
An important part of the research will be development and field testing of a wireless precision ranching system to provide real-time information on weather, water sources and animal position to better understand the environmental and socioeconomic linkages.
Partnering ranchers and feed yard operators will provide information on their operations the first two years, including land use and annual requirements of water, labor, fuel, electricity and other important resources to inform the IFSM model. Purchased feeds will be monitored to quantify feed intake and the flow of nutrients into and from the production system.
Cibils said they will work with Asombro Institute for Science Education and BlueSTEM Agrilearning Center to develop lesson plans for K-12 students that essentially revolve around the sustainability of beef production in the Southwest and Ogallala regions.
The system will integrate research, extension and education outputs via a website and associated web applications that will enable producers and consumers to understand and evaluate effects and tradeoffs of alternative production systems and adoption of new strategies.