Objective: Our objective was to characterize grass-fed beef cattle production systems in the Northeast United States. Materials and Methods: We surveyed 70 Northeast grass-fed beef cattle producers to learn about their management practices. Responses were assigned to USDA Plant Hardiness Zones according to their location. Farms were also categorized based on whether they produced or purchased forage to meet the herd's year-round nutritional needs. Responses were compared using nonparametric methods. Results and Discussion: Grazing seasons were up to 2.3 mo longer in warmer zones than cooler zones (P < 0.01), likely contributing to 46% less land required per animal for farms in warmer zones (P < 0.01). Animal and herd characteristics were similar across zones (P > 0.1), culminating in 74 to 86% greater (P < 0.05) animal productivity per hectare in warmer than cooler zones. The proportion of feed-sufficient farms producing hay from pastureland was 2.5 times greater than feed-importing farms (P < 0.01). Median market weights on feed-sufficient farms were 10% greater than on feed-importing farms (P < 0.1) at similar market ages (P > 0.1). Feed-sufficient farms also had larger herds (P < 0.01), required less total land per animal (P < 0.1), and had 60% greater animal productivity per hectare than feed-importing farms. Implications and Applications: Documentation of management characteristics provides support for further assessment of the production practices and overall sustainability of Northeast grass-fed beef production systems.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Animal Science and Zoology