On the Blog

Be green and graze on

Being ‘green’ is all the rage now. Electric cars, canvas grocery bags and the local food movement all make people feel better about how they live. Amanda Radke, writer for Beef Magazine, points out that beef production has been green for a long while. Her recent editorial has inspired my blog for the week of Earth Day.

As the number of farmers in the US declines, the average consumer is more than 2 generations removed from agriculture. A consequence of this is that their idea of agriculture is formed by stories from grandpa of 4 row planters, 2 dairy cows and 30 beef cows. Thus, the pastoral visions of yesterday are ingrained and accepted as the norm and the reality of modern agriculture is a shock to the system.

The key fact missing from grandpa’s stories of days gone by is the environmental impact. Modern livestock production makes much more efficient use of precious resources than it did just 30 years ago; so much so that beef producers can produce the same pounds of beef with 4 animals when it took 5 in 1977. The graphics below illustrate how the environmental impact of beef (red) and dairy (blue) production has changed in the past 30 plus years.

By embracing advances in the technology, beef producers have been able to do more with less and improve environmental stewardship. One area that is often taken for granted is how cattle are fed and supplemented. CRYSTAYLX® Brand Supplements have been part of improving supplement technology since 1976.

A part of the reason that beef production is able to use less land today, is that we have been able to get cattle to graze the entire pasture. Research has shown that cattle will follow CRYSTALYX® barrels throughout the pasture, meaning you can lead your cattle to an underutilized part of the pasture and keep them in the area. Additionally, providing the right supplement at the right time can improve forage utilization. Supplementing protein while cattle are grazing low-quality or dormant pastures improves rumen efficiency. When the grass is green, a mineral supplement provides key nutrients to the rumen and the animal.

Graphics from Making safe, affordable and abundant food a global reality, 2011 Jeff Simons, Elanco Animal Health.

Graphics from Making safe, affordable and abundant food a global reality, 2011 Jeff Simons, Elanco Animal Health.

The next step in the green path is to advocate. We can all be an advocate for the green in beef production by arming ourselves with the facts. The Beef Check-off Program has funded two information-packed websites, www.explorebeef.org and www.factsaboutbeef.com, for producers to pick up talking points and consumers to learn more. The Sustainable Beef Resource Center (www.sustainablebeef.org) has links to research as well as talking points for setting the record straight on beef production. The CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements website (www.crystalyx.com) has links to research on grazing management as well as information on product offerings and container options to best serve your operation.

Being green may be all the rage, but it’s been part of beef cattle production since the start. We are all stewards of the land and it’s time to share our story with our customers.