S1093: Management systems for beef cattle reared in subtropical and tropical environments

(Multistate Research Project)

Status: Active

S1093: Management systems for beef cattle reared in subtropical and tropical environments

Duration: 10/01/2022 to 09/30/2027

Administrative Advisor(s):


NIFA Reps:


Statement of Issues and Justification

According to the United Nations, food production must double by 2050 to meet the demand of the world's growing population (FAO, 2009). Nonetheless, at least 1 billion people still experience inadequate intake of protein, and 165 million of these individuals are children. Resources for food and agriculture production will become more limited as the planet becomes more populated, and urban areas expand. Therefore, agricultural efficiency must increase dramatically during the next decades to meet the global food demand while maintaining ecological stewardship and proper use of limited natural resources.

Global meat consumption is expected to increase by 30%, which will require a 72% increase in current meat production by 2050 (FAO, 2009). Beef represents 25% of the total meat produced worldwide, and its consumption is projected to increase from 60 million to 130 million tons by 2050. At least 70% of the increase in beef production required to meet the growing demand is expected to come from subtropical and tropical regions of the planet (FAO, 2009), including southern US, Mexico, Central/South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. These regions contain more than 80% of the world's cattle population, predominately B. indicus-influenced breeds with diets based on forages and agricultural by-products (Robinson et al., 2014; FAOSTAT, 2019). In the US, approximately 30% of cattle contain Bos indicus genetics, and 50% of beef cows are located in the southern/southeastern states where both B. indicus-influenced cattle and tropical/subtropical climates predominate (NASS, 2017). Moreover, the annual average temperature in the US will increase 1.5 °C by 2050, which will continue to provoke erratic weather patterns and intensify climate disruptions (Vose et al. 2017). Beef production systems that utilize B. indicus cattle are expected alleviate the severity of climate change in the US and across the globe, given their greater ability to convert low-quality feeds into protein in tropical/subtropical climates compared with B. taurus breeds (Cooke et al., 2020a).

Bos indicus-influenced herds reared in subtropical and tropical regions, however, are typically managed using practices developed and validated for B. taurus breeds in temperate environments. Bos indicus and B. taurus are two individual subspecies and differ in several body functions related to beef production, including reproductive physiology, nutritional needs, social behavior, digestive system, and body composition (Cooke et al., 2020b). Hence, a fundamental step to enhance US agriculture and meet the increasing global demand for high-quality protein is to develop management practices tailored to cattle reared in US subtropical and tropical regions.

Based on these critical needs, we propose the creation of a multistate research project including representatives from US southern states with academic programs that focus on production of beef cattle adapted to tropical and subtropical environments. Representatives from other US regions with academic interests that align with this multistate research project will also be welcome to participate. Ultimately, this project will combine experts in different areas and disciplines related to beef production (i.e., cow-calf, stocker, feedlot), including specialists in nutrition, reproduction, genetics, behavior, and health management. This multistate research project will be different from existing S projects (e.g. S1045, S1064, S1086) as these are largely specific to genetic management and improvement, whereas this proposed project includes all disciplines related to beef cattle production. Hence, the creation of this multistate group will generate critical, novel, and direct information to a substantial segment of stakeholders that directly contribute to US beef production. These efforts will promote production efficiency and sustainability to these stakeholders, and consequently to the entire US beef industry.

Related, Current and Previous Work

Beef production needs to increase in 120% by 2050 to feed a growing world population, and 70% of this production increase is expected from beef industries located in subtropical and tropical regions of the planet (FAO, 2009). Bos indicus-influenced cattle predominate in these regions and are typically managed using practices developed for B. taurus breeds in temperate zones, despite being different subspecies reared in different environmental conditions (Cooke et al., 2020a). In the US, approximately 45% of beef cows are located in the southern and southeastern states, where B. indicus-influenced cattle are located and tropical/subtropical climates predominate. Bos indicus and B. taurus are two individual subspecies and differ in several body functions related to beef production, including reproductive physiology, nutritional needs, social behavior, digestive system, and body composition (Turner, 1980). Hence, a fundamental step to meet the increasing global demand for high-quality protein is to understand these differences, and develop interdisciplinary management practices tailored to cattle reared in subtropical and tropical regions (Cooke et al., 2020a; Cooke et al., 2020b).

Bos indicus cattle display distinct social responses compared with B. taurus counterparts, which must be considered by management planning as these traits directly impact cattle performance and welfare (Rhoad, 1938; Bonsma and Le Roux, 1953; Murphey and de Moura Duarte, 1990). Nutritional planning in tropical and subtropical conditions must also include management to optimize utilization of warm-season forages, whereas nutritional requirements of cattle raised within these conditions still need to be further established (NASEM, 2016). As an example, B. indicus-influenced cattle appear to have an intrinsic metabolic compromise to cope with environmental constraints, and altered energy requirements due to body composition and heat tolerance (Tedeschi and Fox, 2018). Nutritional interventions to enhance beef production need to be specifically tailored and validated in B. indicus-influenced cattle. As an example, supplementation programs during gestation or early life to elicit fetal programming or metabolic imprinting effects, respectively, yield discrepant outcomes between cattle subspecies (Marques et al., 2016; Nepomuceno et al., 2017; Moriel et al., 2018). Bos indicus-influenced cattle also produce carcasses with less marbling than B. taurus cattle (Cooke et al., 2020a). This outcome is mostly related to reduced intramuscular adipocyte volume in B. indicus breeds, which may be an inherent mechanism to facilitate heat dissipation and grant the thermotolerance required for adaptation to tropical and subtropical climates (Miller et al. 1991; Campbell et al., 2016).

In the US beef industry, B. indicus breeds are mostly used to generate B. indicus × B. taurus crosses with increased thermal and parasite tolerance, while retaining the productive features of B. taurus cattle (Cooke et al., 2020b). Research has also attempted to identify B. taurus genetics that can withstand subtropical and tropical climates. Reduced heritability for marbling, hastened shedding of accumulated winter hair coat, reduced milk production, and delayed reproductive maturation appear to be related with tropical adaptation of B. taurus breeds; the latter two as means to conserve energy under stressful conditions and limited nutrition (Gray et al., 2011; Riley et al., 2011; Liberona et al., 2019). Longevity is considered the ultimate adaptation response to unfavorable environments, and retention of offspring from proven cows is the recommended strategy to improve this trait in B. indicus-influenced herds (Riley et al., 2001; Muntean et al., 2018). Other aspects should also be considered when planning breeding and reproductive management in tropical and subtropical regions, given that B. indicus and B. taurus breeds have multiple differences in reproductive functioning (Randel, 1990; Nogueira, 2004; Reese et al., 2020). Limited pharmacological alternatives are available for reproductive management of B. indicus-influenced females in the US, which rely on GnRH-based protocols mostly designed for B. taurus breeds (Oosthuizen et al., 2018). In contrast, estradiol-based protocols were specifically tailored for B. indicus females in South America, consistently yielding pregnancy rates ≥ 50% to fixed-time AI across parities (Vasconcelos et al, 2014).

Vose et al. (2017) also projected that annual average temperature of the contiguous US will increase 1.5 °C by 2050, which will continue to provoke erratic weather patterns and intensify the severity of climate disruptions. Beef production systems that utilize B. indicus cattle are also expected to limit the severity of climate change in the US and across the globe, given their greater ability in converting low-quality feeds into protein in tropical and subtropical climates compared with B. taurus breeds (Cooke et al., 2020a). Nonetheless, there is still a plethora of research-based information needed to fully comprehend the social and welfare aspects, nutrient demand and use, carcass development, and reproductive functioning of B. indicus-influenced cattle (Cooke et al., 2020a; Cooke et al., 2020b). The interactions of all these biological systems in cattle exposed to the challenges of tropical/subtropical environments deserve special attention, and will have direct implications to global food safety and beef supply.

Objectives

  1. Objective 1
    Comments: Identify and fully comprehend the biological functions associated with growth, health, and reproduction in Bos indicus-influenced cattle reared in tropical and subtropical environments
  2. Objective 2
    Comments: Develop management practices tailored to Bos indicus-influenced cattle reared in subtropical and tropical regions of the US

Methods

Objective 1

Multidisciplinary research studies to identify differences between B. indicus and B. taurus breeds, and fully characterize the following aspects in B. indicus-influenced cattle reared in subtropical/tropical environments:

- Behavioral and welfare responses with specific attention to productive consequences

- Nutritional requirement in cow-calf, stocker, and finishing systems

- Carcass development and quality, focusing on intramuscular fat deposition

- Mechanisms that regulate reproductive processes in males and females

- Interactions and impacts to environmental interface

 

Objective 2

Multidisciplinary research studies to develop management practices tailored to Bos indicus-influenced cattle reared in subtropical and tropical regions:

- Guidelines to optimize cattle welfare and productive efficiency, including environmental inputs and outputs associated with beef production

- Nutritional management in cow-calf and stocker systems, including novel supplementation strategies to diets based on warm-season forages

- Nutritional management in feedlot systems, with focus on carcass development and increased marbling

- Development of techniques to optimize reproductive efficiency in heifers, cows, and bulls

Measurement of Progress and Results

Outputs

  • All research proposed herein will be completed during the 5-year proposal period. Results of research will be published in experiment station reports, refereed publications, and in popular press articles. Research results will also be delivered to stakeholders in Extension meetings described in the outreach portion of this proposal. Foundational and collaborative studies among members will generate extramural funding to further support research and educational activities from this multistate group.

Outcomes or Projected Impacts

  • According to the United Nations, food production must double by 2050 to meet the demand of the world’s growing population (FAO, 2009). Nonetheless, at least 1 billion people still experience inadequate intake of protein, and 165 million of these individuals are children. Resources for food and agriculture production will also become more limited as the planet becomes more populated and urban areas expand. Therefore, agricultural efficiency must increase dramatically during the next decades to meet the global food demand while maintaining ecological stewardship and proper use of limited natural resources. Global meat consumption is also expected to increase by 30%, which will require a 72% increase in current meat production by 2050 (FAO, 2009). Beef represents 25% of the total meat produced worldwide, and its consumption is projected to increase from 60 million to 130 million tons by 2050. At least 70% of the increase in beef production required to meet the growing demand is expected to come from subtropical and tropical regions of the planet (FAO, 2009), including southern US, Mexico, Central/South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. These regions contain more than 80% of the world’s cattle population, predominately B. indicus-influenced breeds with diets based on forages and agricultural by-products (FAOSTAT, 2019; Robinson et al., 2014). In the US, approximately 45% of beef cows are located in the southern and southeastern states, where B. indicus-influenced cattle are located and tropical/subtropical climates predominate (NASS, 2017). Bos indicus-influenced herds reared in subtropical and tropical regions are often managed using practices developed and validated for B. taurus breeds in temperate environments. Bos indicus and B. taurus are two individual subspecies and differ in several body functions related to beef production, including reproductive physiology, nutritional needs, social behavior, digestive system, and body composition (Turner, 1980; Table 1). Hence, a fundamental step to meet the increasing global demand for high-quality protein is to understand these differences, and develop management practices tailored to cattle reared in subtropical and tropical regions. Accordingly, the main outcome of this project is to optimize beef production in Bos indicus-influenced breeds in subtropical/tropical regions of the US, with direct implications to similar regions and productive systems across the globe. Hence, this project is directly aligned with the USDA priority areas: 1) Global Food Security and Hunger, and 2) Climate Change, and 3) Food Safety

Milestones

(2022):Initiate multidisciplinary research studies to fully characterize biological functions related to productive traits, and develop management practices tailored to Bos indicus-influenced cattle reared in subtropical and tropical regions.

(2023):Initiate multidisciplinary research studies to fully characterize biological functions related to productive traits, and develop management practices tailored to Bos indicus-influenced cattle reared in subtropical and tropical regions.

(2024):Generate preliminary reports describing research results, and generate multi-state data to establish guidelines for management of B. indicus-influenced cattle in subtropical/tropical environments

(2025):Initiate summaries of updated recommendations based on the findings obtained during the first three years

(2026):Disseminate information to the scientific community, cattle producers, and industry professionals

(2027):Publish findings in peer-reviewed scientific journals

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Outreach Plan

Stakeholder-oriented media will compile research-based information originated from this project, and translate this information with specific application to beef producers (online and printed material). This project will also include members that lead nationwide educational activities targeting beef producers and industry personnel. Examples are:

 - Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle (ARSBC), which is hosted by the Beef Reproduction Task Force (BRTF). The BRTF is a multi-disciplinary group formed by research and Extension faculty members from US universities with a focus on beef cattle reproduction, management and reproductive technologies. The ARSBC is the premier national event in beef cattle reproductive management that provides continuing education credits to veterinarians and Extension faculty, and covers a variety of topics related to beef cattle management.

 - Plains Nutrition Council annual meeting, an educational/professional organization for cattle nutritionists, consultants, research scientists and educators in beef cattle. The annual meeting provides a forum for study, discussion, and promulgation of current research in the field, as well as opportunity for study and evaluation of new management technologies pertaining to beef cattle nutrition.

Extension programs that translate research-based technologies specific to cattle production in subtropical/tropical regions is limited compared with conventional beef cattle system in the US. Hence, a critical component of this project is to disseminate specific knowledge and tools to stakeholders, cooperative Extension personnel, and industry professionals.  

This multistate research projects will directly benefit stakeholders by identifying challenges related to beef cattle production in subtropical and tropical environments, creating research-based strategies to address these challenges, and disseminating such strategies via outreach and educational ventures.

Organization/Governance

The technical committee will consist of at least 1 officially designated representative from each participating agricultural station in the region. The technical committee will meet annually. The USDA-NIFA designate one nonvoting representative. Officers will be elected for a rotating period of 3 years, consisting of Chair, Secretary and a Member-at-Large. Officers rotate from Member-at-Large to Secretary to Chair during each subsequent year. Elections will be held at the annual meeting. Officers will compose the executive committee. The executive committee, together with the administrative advisors, is authorized to function on behalf of the technical committee in all matters pertaining to the regional project interim action.

The chair, in consultation with the administrative adviser, will arrange the time and place of the meeting, notify technical committee members of the meeting site, and prepare the agenda. The Chair is responsible for preparation of the annual report of the regional project. The Secretary will record and distribute minutes of the annual meeting. Subcommittees may be appointed by the Chair as needed for specific assignments. The executive committee will be in charge of coordinating the cooperative research trials.

Literature Cited

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