From grazinglands to feedyards, US beef production systems are expected to meet new global beef demands while sustaining environmental quality. These opportunities and challenges are manifest in the American Southwest and Ogallala Aquifer region, neighboring regions connected ecologically and socially through beef production. Most calves raised on the extensive, arid pastures of the Southwest are exported to the Ogallala Aquifer region for finishing on grains. Intensification of changes in climate, vegetation, and human demographics threaten the sustainability of the bi-regional system.
Many US consumers perceive range finishing -- grass-finishing on rangeland -- as environmentally friendly, but much remains unknown about tradeoffs including: forage demands and greenhouse gas production of longer-living cattle, disruption of Ogallala Aquifer cattle feeding systems, and the time demands involved with niche marketing. The USDA-NIFA funded Sustainable Southwest Beef Coordinated Agricultural Project is working to fill these knowledge gaps to better understand the environmental and socio-economic outcomes of range finishing in the US Southwest, and how they compare with conventional supply chains. More information about supply chain options is available from this two-page brochure.