ARS Beef Grand Challenge Project
USMARC launches grand project to ascertain environmental effects, improve production efficiency and evaluate nutritional benefits of beef raised in differing production environments.
DES MOINES, IOWA (June 23, 2021) — It’s a long-term, integrated research project with “moon shot” goals. That’s how geneticist Larry Kuehn described the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Grand Challenge Project. A researcher at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC), Kuehn introduced the project to an audience gathered for the 2021 Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) Research Symposium & Convention hosted June 22-25 in Des Moines, Iowa.
“It’s a large collaborative effort involving multiple disciplines,” explained Kuehn. “Goals include improving (beef) production efficiency, reducing environmental impact and encouraging environmental impact at the same time.”
According to Kuehn, the collaborators include scientists researching beef production, human nutrition, food safety, watershed management and grazing ecosystems. Cattle sourced at USMARC, near Clay Center, Neb., are further studied at four other Plains Region ARS facilities: Miles City, Mont.; Nunn, Colo.; plus Woodward and El Reno, Okla. In addition, end product from animals managed at those locations will be sent to the Grand Forks, N.D., facility for human nutrition research.
The project will utilize both spring- and fall-born calves out of USMARC cows and sired by Angus, Hereford, Simmental, Charolais and Brahman composite bulls. After weaning, some calves will remain at USMARC for backgrounding and finishing. Groups will be sent to other facilities and managed as stockers prior to going on feed. Calves sent to Miles City will be grown on winter range, while those sent to El Reno will graze wheat pasture. Groups sent to Nunn and Woodward will enter summer stocker programs. Genotyped groups of calves sent to each location will be as genetically similar as possible.
“We want to see how very similar cattle perform at different locations and under different management systems,” said Kuehn, explaining that calves will be evaluated for gain, rumen function, stress and grazing behavior.
Carcass data will be collected after cattle are finished and harvested. Nutrient values of the resulting beef product will then be evaluated.
“This is a long-term project,” stated Kuehn. “The stocker program is just the beginning.”
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