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

(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

Duration: 10/01/2018 to 09/30/2023

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Non-Technical Summary

Statement of Issues and Justification

The NCCC-308 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.

The United States cattle inventory officially began a new cycle in 2015.  This is due to significant drought experienced at the beginning of 2013 and through the end of 2014. Placements in feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 or more head during 2015 was 20.4 million head, 5% below the 21.5 million head placed in 2014 (NASS, 2016). Feedlots with less than 1,000 head of capacity compose the majority of U.S. feedlots, but market a small portion of total fed cattle. Lots with 1,000 head or more capacity compose less than 5% of total feedlots, but market 80-90% of fed cattle. Feedlots with 32,000 head or more of capacity marketed around 40% of fed cattle (USDA, 2017). For the second year in a row, the largest percent of the United States value of production from agricultural commodities came from cattle and calves. In 2015 the top 5 United States agricultural commodities in order from largest to smallest were cattle and calves, corn from grain, milk from cows, soybeans, and broilers (NASS, 2016). The average price in the United States for calves in 2015 equaled $263 per cwt, up 3% from 2014 and the greatest price on record (NASS, 2016). Corn grain declined in price for the fourth year in a row. In 2015 the price of corn was $3.71, down 44% from the peak in 2012 of $6.67. Cattle slaughtered in 2015 averaged 829 lbs for HCW, up 21 lbs from 2014. United States live cattle averaged 1,364 lbs with a 61% dress in 2015. The total number of cattle slaughtered in the United States in 2015 was 28.8 million head, down 5% from 2014 (NASS, 2016). By July 1, 2017 the U.S. cattle herd has expanded to 102.6 million head, the largest since 2008. 

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-308 project represent the top 10 states for feedlot capacity and surrounding states with inventories up to 100,000 cattle on feed. Representatives to NCCC-308 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-308 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 swine production, utilization of animal manure and organic residues, and molecular mechanisms regulating growth of muscle and adipose tissue. The research goals of this committee are supportive of all four research goals of REE Action Plan.

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. NCCC-308 committee efforts have made more information available on the optimal ratios of ethanol co-products to forage, as well as the impact of increased dietary forage inclusion on greenhouse gas production. Now the need exists to continue to monitor changes in nutrient composition of by-products available for feeding cattle.

With the volatility of the U.S. markets and the beginning of a new cattle cycle in 2015, research is needed to better manage commodity resources and technologies available for feedlot cattle. Cattle are being fed to larger weights much more efficiently. However, due to changing consumer perception, the cattle feeding industry is under scrutiny for its use of growth promotants. The industry is no longer using an important growth promoting feed additive zilpaterol and the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) was recently implemented. Antibiotics are no longer labeled for growth promotion and specific antibiotics added to the feed must have veterinary oversight. Researchers are now challenged with formulating management strategies without feed additives that have been available for years. The use of antibiotics in agricultural production, antibiotic resistance, natural/organic production, and defining animal behavior and well-being has been a growing focus for AFRI programs along with environmental outputs and sustainable solutions for the beef industry. These changes have presented new challenges to the feedlot industry, and therefore warrant further research by the NCCC-308 committee. The objectives of the committee continue to be focused on providing sustainable management programs for the beef cattle industry.


  1. Enhance the utilization of C from energy feeds to compete in an energy economy and improve national food security. Collaborating states include (IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MN, NE, ND, OH, OK, PA, SD, TX, UT, WI)
  2. To enhance the environmental sustainability of the feedlot industry through conservation and nutrient management. Collaborating states include (CO, IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MN, NE, ND, OK, PA, SD, TX, UT, WI, OH)
  3. To enhance the production efficiency and quality of feedlot cattle through management strategies and technologies. Collaborating states include (IL, IN, MI, MN, NE, ND, PA, TX, WI, OH)
  4. To enhance management strategies that improves animal health and well-being. Collaborating states include (TX, CO, KS, OK, NE, IA)

Procedures and Activities

The NCCC-308 committee continues 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 NCCC-308 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, animal health, 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, growth technologies, 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. New technologies available will be utilized to monitor animal health and activity in a pen setting. 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, animal health and activity, 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, beta-agonists, and ionophores. Management strategies also may be implemented to mitigate the use of antibiotics through natural feed additives.

The cadre of professionals represented by NCCC-308 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.). The committee members plan to seek collaboration within the group to gain preliminary data that could lead to multi-institutional grants seeking extramural funding.   

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 NCCC-308 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 NCCC-308 members.

Some committee members have added new technologies to their research capabilities including (but not limited to); portable systems measuring greenhouse gases, individual animal feeding and watering equipment, ear tags measuring temperature, activity, and rumination, boluses measuring ruminal pH and temperature, pedometers, and collars measuring rumination.  Most of the technologies are designed for early detection of sick animals, and to improve our measurement capabilities in a non-invasive way.  These technologies also need extensive validation studies completed before commercial implementation occurs (if applicable).  Once validated, the committee members plan to engage in multi-institutional collaborative studies to build data sets for statistical modeling.   

NCCC-308 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 NCCC-308 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 NCCC-308 both within and across Stations.
  • Yearly collaborative summation and interpretation of reports of progress by NCCC-308 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.
  • Studies resulting from these collaborations will be used as preliminary data to pursue extramural funding in multi-institutional grants.
  • 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.
  • Development of feeding strategies for current and new generation alternative feed additives to improve cattle health and performance.
  • Development of nutrient management standards that consider environmental protection and U.S. beef feedlot sector sustainability.
  • Evaluation of salient technologies and interventions designed to: enhance energy utilization and increase production efficiency, manage nutrient output by feedlots, and improve beef quality.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Reduced reliance on grain feeding (and more reliant on crop residues, forages, and grain and oilseed coproducts) by the U.S. beef feedlot sector.
  • Enhanced visibility of participating Experiment Stations
  • A U.S. beef feedlot sector that can offer environmental assurance and be economically sustainable.
  • Healthier feedlot cattle that produce higher quality beef.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

Publications by NCCC-308 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 NCCC-308 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 NCCC-308 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 NCCC-308 committee has and will continue to coordinate and sponsor meetings and symposia which highlight discoveries under the stated objectives of the committee.


The recommended Standard Governance for multistate research activities include the election of a Chair, a Chair-elect, and a Secretary. All officers are to be elected for at least two-year terms to provide continuity. Administrative guidance will be provided by an assigned Administrative Advisor and a NIFA Representative.

Literature Cited

NASS, 2016. Overview of the United States Cattle Indusrty. Released June 24, 2016, the National Agricultural Statistics Servcie (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

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

USDA, 2017. United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. Updated January 23, 2017.


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

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