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United States Environmental Protection Agency
Ag 101
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Beef Production

Beef cattle production is a strong animal industry within the United States and throughout the world. Since beef cattle can graze forages in the open range and pasturelands, they serve a unique role in providing high quality protein for human consumption from byproducts and forage sources that humans and non-ruminant animals do not consume. Considerable land in the U.S. and the world that will not support intensive crop production, can often times sustain grasses and forages that provide conservation of the land, and produce feeds that cattle can utilize. Beef cattle production is dispersed throughout the U.S., but a significant amount of beef is produced on the rangelands of the Western U.S. About 830,000 farms had beef cows in 2000 and almost 12 million cattle on feed annually.

Beef cattle production ranges from the beef cow herd that typically graze on pastureland or graze the remaining residue on the land after grain harvest to growing and finishing young cattle in feedlots. The feedlot-housing systems used in beef cattle production typically varies by climate and can range from open earthen lots with very little shelter to open shed and lot or an enclosed confinement building. Manure handling and storage ranges from solid manure with bedding included, and runoff water from open lots to liquid slurry and treatment lagoon systems. Due to the increasing size of beef operations, the large volume of manure production, collection, storage and application to the land has presented challenges.

This module will look at beef cattle production from a historical perspective, economic impact of the beef industry in the U.S., typical production practices and manure management systems used today.


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