May Is National Beef Month!

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Beef. It’s what’s for dinner. Whether enjoying a tasty cheeseburger or a juicy ribeye, beef is a healthy and delicious option for any meal. Ranchers and farmers throughout the United States, North Carolina, and even Rutherford County strive to produce this nutritious product by caring for their animals and caring for the land. Cattle, through digestion, utilize forages and plant waste that is non-digestible by humans. In fact, 90% of a cow’s diet consists of plants that could not otherwise be converted to food energy for humans. Beef farmers aim to maintain a sustainable food system while providing excellent care of their animals.

Beef producers are committed to producing beef in a way that prioritizes the planet, people, environment, and progress. The U.S. is the leader in sustainable beef production. Research recently conducted by the U.S.D.A.’s Agricultural Research Service and The Beef Checkoff, and confirmed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,  reported beef production, including the production of animal feed, accounts for only 3.3% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States (for comparison, electricity and heat production are 25%, industry is 21%, and transportation is 14%).

You may ask, what about Rutherford County? Where is the beef in this county? And what are farmers doing locally to increase sustainability and decrease the environmental impact?

Beef cattle are an important agricultural product for Rutherford County. Collectively, Rutherford County beef producers have approximately 4,600 head of beef cows. Total cattle numbers are estimated at a little over 8,000 head. Cattle farmers across the county implement best management practices to ensure both the welfare of their animals, and of the land. Many local farmers have fenced their livestock out of waterways to prevent any contamination. Others have decided to implement a grass-only diet (grass-fed) for their cattle which limits the need for transportation of feed to those farms. Certain farmers participate in conservation programs which improve the land by encouraging wildlife habitat and provide a permanent ground cover which prevents silt in waterways during floods.

Regarding animal welfare, many farmers in the county are certified through a national registry as a Beef Quality Assurance producer. This certification promotes the health, welfare and safety of the animals. Farmers understand that if they do not have healthy cows and healthy land they will not benefit economically.

As a cattle farmer in the county, as well as the Livestock Extension Agent, I am often faced with questions regarding cattle and the impact they have on the environment. Utilizing best management practices, common sense, and the love that farmers have for their animals and their land, there is a way to have your steak and eat it too.

For further information contact Jeff Bradley, Livestock Extension Agent, Ruherford County, (828) 287-6022.