Integrated Beef Systems

Research, Extension, Education Integrated Beef Systems

FFAR Grants Multi-State Research Extension & Outreach Academic Programming
White and Brown Cow

The goal of the Beef Systems Initiative, approved November 2016, is to develop and support implementation
of beef production systems that optimize feed resource use, natural resource conservation and producer success in Nebraska
through improved management of perennial grasslands and systems of integrated crop-beef cattle production.


Nebraska is often described as the epicenter for beef cattle production. The unique combination of forage and water supply, crop and ethanol production, and feeding and packing infrastructure make Nebraska a world-leader in beef production. However, there are critical opportunities to expand our cow/calf production capacity including:

  1. Efficient utilization of native rangeland as sources of feedstuff for beef cattle is less than its potential
  2. Corn stover and cover crops are under-utilized

Considering existing investments, opportunities for future investments, and the current momentum, the Agricultural Research Division and Nebraska Extension provided funds for a team-based integrated research and extension program for NE/US Beef Systems. Funding ($1.5 million) in collaboration with IANR units (Schools, Centers and Departments) was provided over 5 years. Funding was designed to encourage strong collaborations (e.g., co-direction of students), address the research, teaching and extension missions of IANR, and fulfill two essential elements:

  • Strategic integration and optimization of components of the IANR statewide system to impact specific issues of regional and national importance to Beef Systems
  • Plans for leveraging this investment towards current and emerging external funding sources (public and private-sector)

A concerted statewide research and extension effort has been established to improve the utilization of rangeland, pastures, crop residues, annual forages, ethanol co-products, and cover crops to optimize Nebraska beef production in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner.

To identify management practices that achieve optimal harvest efficiency and utilization of perennial grasslands, the initiative will utilize a case study approach. This plan involves a comparison of grassland and beef production systems of ranches in Nebraska that utilize various management and grazing strategies. The cattle grazing distribution, grassland and beef production, range condition/health, alternative feed resources, and harvest efficiency of ranches in Nebraska will be quantified and key factors that impact harvest efficiency and productivity will be determined.

The initiative is housed in the Center for Grassland Studies and engages many faculty from University of Nebraska-Lincoln units; as well as other institutions of higher education, state, federal and private collaborators.

Research Projects

Center for Grassland Studies facilitates many programs to enrich the efforts of beef systems research and extension, providing relevant experience for undergraduate students, graduate students, and stakeholders and end-users. The synergeis realized by co-locating the programs in the Center are unique and position Nebraska as the leader in developing and implementing integrated beef systems at all levels.

The multistate research program enables research on high-priority topics among the State Agricultural Experimentation States (SAES) in partnership with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) of the USDA, other research institutions and agencies, and with the Cooperative Extension Service (CES). In this way, technological opportunities and complex problem-solving activities can be approached more efficiently and comprehensively.

Hatch multistate projects involve a team of investigators associated with SAES working together to solve complex scientific problems of regional and national interest. About 25% of Hatch Act funds for Nebraska are set aside to support multistate research activities.

Current reserach projects include:

  • Enhancing Protein Production through Crops & Cattle
  • Production Efficiency of Perennial Grassland Systems
  • Outcomes of Integrating Cattle into Cropping Systems
  • Utilization of Annual Forages and Crop Residues in Developing a Year-round Grazing System
  • Predicting Consequences of Changing Systems: Economic and Production Parameters
  • Producer and Community Outreach through Extension
  • Enhancing Resiliency of Beef Production under Shifting Forage Resources
  • Management and Environmental Factors Affecting Nitrogen Cycling and Use Efficiency in Forage-Based Livestock Production Systems
  • Enhancing Animal Protein Production through Crops & Cattle

More about BSI Projects  More about Multistate Research  More about FFAR Grant Projects

Education & Outreach

Academic Programming

The Center also provides programming which enriches the efforts in beef systems research and extension while providing relevant academic choices for undergraduate and graduate students and life-long learning opportunities for stakeholders and end-users. The synergies realized by co-locating the following programs in the Center are unique and position Nebraska as the leader in developing and implementing integrated beef systems regionally, nationally and internationally.

  • Bachelor of Science degree in Grazing Livestock Systems
    hosted by the Center and offered through the Departments of Animal Science, Agricultural Economics and Agronomy and Horticulture
  • Grassland Management Certificate - (online)
    hosted by the Center and offered through AG*IDEA, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and the Department of Agronomy of Horticulture
  • Courses offered by the Center
    • GRAS 490 (Internship Experience in Grazing Livestock Systems)
    • GRAS 495 (Grasslands Seminar)
    • GRAS 496 (Independent Study)
  • Beef Systems Graduate Specialization (proposal pending)
    hosted by the Center and offered through the Departments of Animal Science, Agricultural Economics and Agronomy and Horticulture

Extension & Outreach

As Nebraska continues to be the epicenter for beef cattle production, the Beef Systems Initiative through the Center for Grassland Studies seeks to partner with citizens, producers, and other stakeholders across the state. Several efforts to reach out to those impacted and involved most in Beef Inititatives include: