NCCC_old308: Nutrition and Management of Feedlot Cattle to Optimize Performance, Carcass Value and Environmental Compatibility (NCT192)

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Inactive/Terminating

NCCC_old308: Nutrition and Management of Feedlot Cattle to Optimize Performance, Carcass Value and Environmental Compatibility (NCT192)

Duration: 10/01/2013 to 09/30/2018

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Statement of Issues and Justification

The NCCC-208 committee was formed to address nutrition and management issues related to performance, carcass value, and environmental sustainability of feedlot cattle operations. This committee, representing most of the cattle feeding states in the U.S., will focus on research and education efforts in support of the cattle feeding industry in the North Central Region and beyond.

Annually, over 27 million steers and heifers are finished in the U.S.; this number represents the major source of beef consumed in the U.S. The U.S. feedlot industry is built around producing grain-fed (almost entirely corn or corn co-products) beef for domestic and foreign consumption. Approximately 1,500 kg of corn are needed to finish a 340 kg steer to the desired grade and weight. Yet, increasing amounts of corn continue to be used for the production of ethanol. In this environment corn may become an alternative feed and not the main feed stock for finishing beef cattle while co-products of the ethanol industry and forages may constitute predominant feed ingredients. In addition, evidence drawn from recent research indicates that the feeding and management environment the feeder calf is exposed to prior to entering the feedlot dictate growth and carcass characteristics of the finished animal. In this regard, cattle growth and efficiency and meat quality may be altered by fetal programming, neonatal nutrition and stocker nutrition.

Currently, despite a weak economy, beef demand has remained steady. Furthermore, beef still makes up the majority of the dollars spent in the U.S. meat market. However, the volatility in the grain market and two years of drought in major cattle regions is driving up the cost of producing beef and ultimately will result in higher beef prices for consumers. These agricultural issues coupled with a severe national recession may have a lasting impact on the future of beef production. If the beef industry is to remain sustainable in the future efforts to maintain efficient production of a safe, wholesome product that is in demand by consumers are necessary.

Feedlot inventories over 2 million head are common in Texas, Nebraska, and Kansas while Colorado, Iowa, California, South Dakota, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Minnesota have inventories ranging from 300,000 to 1.5 million head. Most large feedlots hold several thousand head in pens with unsurfaced lots and mounds with run-off capture basins. Due primarily to climate and precipitation, feedlots in the northern states vary by design but include unsurfaced lots, surfaced (e.g. concrete or pavement) lots, and confinement buildings. This variation in design results in variable environmental impact. However, little is known about the differences among these designs and possible advantages and disadvantages regarding animal performance and environmental sustainability.

States participating in the NCCC-208 project represent the top 10 states for feedlot capacity and surrounding states with inventories up to 100,000 cattle on feed. Representatives to NCCC-208 are leaders in feedlot nutrition and management research and routinely interact with the largest feedlot consulting firms, feed manufacturing and processing companies, managers of ethanol companies and directly with feedlot owners and managers in their areas of influence. This team of professionals is well known and respected by their clientele base and their peers. They represent the focal efforts of their land-grant universities on feedlot nutrition and management.

The NCCC-208 committee is the only committee equipped with a group of scientists already well-known in the industry and supporting infrastructure to focus research programs in feedlot cattle nutrition and management issues facing the U.S. cattle feeding industry. This committee will employ a three-tier approach (improve national food security, enhance environmental sustainability and enhance production efficiency) in developing nutritional and management strategies. This focus clearly distinguishes the research efforts of this group from other NC or NCR committees in which scientists are focused on dairy production, utilization of animal manure and organic residues, grazing systems, cow-calf management and molecular mechanisms regulating growth of muscle and adipose tissue. The research goals of this committee are supportive of all five research goals of CSREES.

The U.S. government mandate to incorporate 57 billion liters of ethanol fuel by 2022 will place further constraints on the livestock feed supply. The Renewable Fuel Standard calls for 15 billion gallons of corn based ethanol which will require approximately 140 million tons of corn. Although co-products of ethanol fermentation are logical substitutes, the inclusion of ethanol co-products in feedlot diets is limited by availability and potential negative impacts on animal performance and the environment. Increased competition for dry corn co-products from foreign countries will pressure corn co-product utilization within the U.S.

Ethanol co-products, which are high in cellulose, are expected to be one of the first feed stocks utilized for production of cellulosic ethanol. In this regard, ethanol co-products, as well as other high fiber co-product feeds may not be viable alternative feed stocks for feedlot cattle. Crop residue and other forages represent tremendous feed resources in the north-central region and they have the potential to replace corn, complement ethanol co-products, and ease the burden of corn replacement on the ethanol co-product supply. Little is known about optimal ratios of ethanol co-products to forage to optimize cattle performance and carcass quality and the impact of increased dietary forage inclusion on greenhouse gas production is unclear. Thus, the need exists to identify technologies to improve utilization of forages, particularly low-quality crop residues. Furthermore, negative impacts on animal performance resulting from feeding co-products high in sulfur, fat or nitrogen will continue to be an issue to be addressed by this group.

Because of price pressure generated by the use of corn for ethanol production, a trend for relocating feedlots to areas where corn is grown (and prices are typically lower) has already begun. This may create an opportunity to site and manage feedlots in a manner more consistent with environmental protection than previously accomplished. Thus, the need exists to understand the impact of feedlot design on the environment and animal production.

As the areas of influence of the NCCC-208 committee encompass much of the corn-producing and ethanol-processing regions of the country, this committee is poised to generate informational resources, grounded in the scientific method, for a smooth transition as the feedlot industry restructures to transition into an era which will likely be less dependent on corn and more dependent on corn co-products and forage.


  1. Enhance the utilization of carbon from energy feeds to compete in an energy economy and improve national food security
  2. Enhance the environmental sustainability of the feedlot industry through conservation and nutrient management
  3. Enhance the production efficiency and quality of feedlot cattle through management strategies and technologies

Procedures and Activities

The NCCC208 committee is poised to address research issues arising from decreased availability of C from energy feeds, concentrated nutrient output and application of pre-harvest nutrition and management strategies on production efficiency and beef quality of feedlot cattle. Committee members represent Agricultural Experiment Stations known across the nation for studying utilization of C from alternative energy feeds long before grains and oilseeds were used for biofuel production (NCR, 1984). Agricultural Experiment Stations represented by NCCC208 membership have the infrastructure and resources available to represent the continuum between cattle procurement, pre-feedlot entry feeding and management, feedlot nutrition and management and access to Experiment Station-based or commercial cattle harvest facilities. The committee will address its objectives on a three-way collaborative approach: members focused on pre-feedlot nutrition by management interactions (enhancing the use of energy feeds through pre-feedlot nutrition and management on production efficiency, sustainability and food security), members focused on feedlot nutrition and management (impacts of enhancing the use of energy feeds in the feedlot on production efficiency, beef quality and food security) and members focused on post-harvest evaluation of nutrition and management interventions (beef quality).

Studies designed to evaluate alternative energy feed, pre-harvest beef quality and environmental impacts of nutrient management strategies will be standardized according to basic protocols that may, depending on study objectives, include the following: steers or heifers will be purchased according to specifications of the protocol (sex, frame size, maturity, etc.). Cattle will be vaccinated against respiratory and stress-related diseases, dewormed and ear-tagged. Implant or additive feeding programs will be included according to protocols for specific studies. Cattle will be assigned randomly to dietary and, where appropriate, interactive treatments. Weights will be collected at least every 28 d before feeding in the morning, unless a specific requirement for shrunk weights is needed because of the nature of diets. Dry matter intakes will be measured from feed offered and refused by pens or by individual animal intake through the use of EID or individual bunks. Standard measurements of carcass characteristics such as dressing percentage, fat depth, ribeye area, marbling score, proportion of kidney, pelvic and heart fat and USDA quality and yield grade will be routinely collected. In some cases additional carcass and beef quality and sensory characteristics may also be collected, depending on the specific protocol of each study.

Regularly, data from feedlot studies will be pooled and summarized by standardized statistical procedures. Mixed models will be applied to analyze for effects of weight, breed type, energy source and concentration and/or protein source and concentration on performance, carcass characteristics and beef quality attributes of feedlot cattle. Based on these analyses, the committee will develop feeding standards for enhancing the use of C from energy feeds, with particular attention to interactions between common feeding and management strategies such as use of implants and ionophores.

The cadre of professionals represented by NCCC208 has a significant extension appointment. They regularly conduct cooperative extension programs to disseminate results of research as components of their yearly programs (e.g., cattle feeder days, nutrition roundtables, nutrition conferences, etc.). As leaders in their fields they are often asked to represent their universities at regional, national, and international conferences (e.g., American Society of Animal Science Symposia, Plains Nutrition Council Spring Conference, NCBA Convention, International Livestock Congress, Distillers Association Conventions, Southwest Nutrition Conference, etc.).

Because of the specificity of requirements to conduct studies to determine effects of alternative energy feeds on greenhouse gas production, only a few of the members of NCCC208 have the resources and infrastructure to conduct these studies. However, collaborative studies to determine effects of enhancing the utilization of C from alternative energy feeds on rumen fermentation and performance of feedlot cattle will be conducted by several NCCC208 members.

NCCC208 will convene annually in the summer at locations that will permit focusing on annual review and interpretive summarization of results of research efforts by each committee member and their home institution. Each year, during the Midwest Animal Science Meetings, the committee will hold an informal meeting to plan the summer meeting and to call for written research reports to be submitted before the annual meeting for compilation. During the annual committee meeting, administrative reporting will occur to highlight budgetary issues and ensuing research funding direction. In addition, during the meeting, each Experiment Station represented by committee members will present results of research and discuss outcomes and impacts. By the fall of the year, summary of research reports will be uploaded to the NCCC208 website maintained by the kind contributions of Dr. Dan Loy of Iowa State University. Collaborative efforts resulting from these meetings will be discussed and pursued according to pressing issues.

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • Enhanced cooperation and collaboration between Experiment Station members of NCCC208 both within and across Stations.
  • Yearly collaborative summarization and interpretation of reports of progress by NCCC208 members.
  • Standardization of research protocols to evaluate enhanced C utilization from energy feeds, feedlot nutrient balance, and potential beef quality enhancement techniques used in the pre-feedlot and receiving periods.
  • Studies resulting from these collaborations will be pooled across participating experiment stations and years to generate robust datasets for meta-analyses designed to provide conclusive implications and further research direction.
  • Development of feeding standards for current and new generation alternative feeds derived from crop residues and/or processing of oilseeds and grains into biofuels as components of growing and finishing cattle diets.
  • Outcome/Impact 6: Development of nutrient management standards that consider environmental protection and U.S. beef feedlot sector sustainability. Outcome/Impact 7: Evaluation of salient technologies and interventions designed to: enhance energy utilization and increase production efficiency, manage nutrient output by feedlots, and improve beef quality. Outcome/Impact 8: Development of symposiums at relevant scientific meetings (e.g. Midwest American Society of Animal Science) which detail the findings of the studies conducted by the members of the committee and disseminate the knowledge developed by the collective work being conducted by the committee. Outcome/Impact 9: Strategic utilization by the U.S. beef feedlot sector of alternative energy feedstuffs derived from crop residues and/or biofuel processing of oilseeds and grains. Outcome/Impact 10: Reduced reliance on grain feeding (and more reliant on crop residues, forages, and grain and oilseed coproducts) by the U.S. beef feedlot sector. Outcome/Impact 11: Enhanced visibility of participating Experiment Stations. Outcome/Impact 12: A U.S. beef feedlot sector that can offer environmental assurance and be economically sustainable. Outcome/Impact 13: Healthier feedlot cattle that produce higher quality beef.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

Publications by NCCC208 members consist of journal articles in scientific journals and Beef Research Reports generated by participating institutions. Committee members generate more than 75 of these publications of original research annually. Most of these publications are also available on-line. These publications represent the leading sources of information for cattle feeders and allied industry, including feedlot consultants and feed dealers. Most NCCC208 members conduct a series of annual meetings to highlight findings of research and expose cattle producers to the latest information derived from their research and extension efforts. Results and implications of this coordinated research committee will be highlighted through these events. The combined audience of these programs is approximately 5,000 feedlots, and nearly100% of the feedlot consultants and feed dealers involved in the feedlot industry in the U.S. The discoveries made by the coordinated efforts of members of this committee conservatively impact over 80% of the feedlot operations in the country. Additionally, results of this research will be made available through the NCCC208 website ( Other efforts to communicate results of this research are concurrent with research reporting at Regional and National American Society of Animal Science meetings, meetings of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers, the American Meat Institute, the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, the Plains Nutrition Conference in San Antonio, TX (a venue reaching almost 80% of the feedlot consultants in the country/world). The NCCC208 committee has and will continue to coordinate and sponsor meetings and symposia which highlight discoveries under the stated objectives of the committee.



Literature Cited

NCR 1984. The nutritional value of grain alcohol fermentation by-products for feedlot cattle. NCR Pub. No. 297. June.


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

West Texas A&M University
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