Sustainability in the beef sector requires innovation and a look from all angles

Dr Sara Place, Colorado State University at NCBA Cattle Con 2023

Sustainability is about three things: economics, social responsibility, and environmental stewardship. But how do you make that system better, rather than pitting ourselves against each other?

That’s the message Dr. Sara Place, of Colorado State University (CSU), covered at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association conference being held this week at New Orleans, Louisiana.

When looking at achieving sustainability, it’s not always a matter of switching things up on your operation, it can be more about putting a word to something you are already focused on, explains Place, such as the legacy of the business and trying to pass that on to the next generation while taking care of things in the community and on the land.

There is a certain level of innovation that is required in order to continue down the sustainability road, though. CSU is working on some exciting research in that realm, especially when it comes to methane emissions.

“Methane emissions from cattle seem to be heritable themselves. And we know things like feed efficiency are heritable. So that’s one of those exciting opportunities of, can we use genetic selection to potentially shift the entire cattle herd to 10 to 15 per cent lower emitting animals? That work though, and to actually get to a point where we could have it in an EPD index, that takes a lot of research,” Place explains, noting that it would take 1000 plus animals in a data set to get them to a point of confidence in what the research is telling them.

Read more: Lactanet announces addition of methane efficiency trait to dairy cattle selection

Currently, there’s not a lot of research that has looked at breed differences and enteric methane, but it’s something that will be determined as this continues. As Place explains, the genetic variation is going to be huge — so identifying those animals that are more efficient than expected could be tricky.

Tying into the three pillars of sustainability, Place says this research isn’t just about environmental stewardship either.

“We talk about it from a climate perspective, but it’s a loss of feed energy, right? So typically, these animals that are more efficient and less methane emitting, we expect them to be more feed efficient as well.”

Check out the full conversation between Sara Place, and RealAgriculture founder Shaun Haney, for more on some of the research in sustainability from CSU:

Related:

Focus on carbon insets keeps recognition of environmental good within the cattle industry

“We can’t cut production as a solution”: Looking at sustainability in the livestock sector

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