Integrated Beef Systems

Research, Extension, Education Integrated Beef Systems

White and Brown Cow

The Center for Grassland Studies (CGS) provides an administrative platform for trans-disciplinary integrated beef systems research, extension and education. The CGS is classified as a “Multi-Departmental Academic Center for Research, Teaching, and/or Service” within the University of Nebraska, as defined by the Board of Regents bylaws:

Multi-disciplinary and intercampus organizational entities have become increasingly important for pursuit of the University’s mission. Such multi-departmental organizational entities may organize faculty and programs for numerous purposes such as creation of partnerships with external organizations, enhanced university research and outreach programs, development of new funding patterns, addressing emerging multi-disciplinary educational needs, and other emerging problems and issues. Organizational entities of this type are encouraged in order to serve important University goals. Such entities are considered “Multi-Departmental Academic Centers for Research, Teaching, and/or Service” by the Board of Regents (BOR) (ByLaws 2.11).

Scholarship at UNL should emphasize teaching and discovery but should also include the scholarship of integration and application of subject matter material (Regents Policy [RP] c.). The complexities of a multi-faceted approach to solving the great challenges of profitable beef production and environmental stewardship requires innovative and efficient administration to maximize the impact of investments. The Center facilitates collaborations among and across academic units, colleges, universities, system-wide institutes, state and federal agencies, public and private entities, non-profit and commodity-based organizations to assemble the needed expertise to address the Center priorities.

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 research activities in the Center are unique and position Nebraska as the leader in developing and implementing integrated beef systems regionally, nationally and internationally.

Beef Systems Initiative (BSI)

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. 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.

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.

A Center Platform for BSI

IANR administration is committed to exploring a definition and role for the Center for Grassland Studies to more clearly encompass livestock production (beef) systems. As we complete this process, the Center can immediately provide a platform (e.g. space, identity) from which the Beef System Initiative and team can begin to operate.

Accordingly, the Center for Grassland Studies will begin to provide logistical support for the Nebraska Beef Systems Initiative, and the director of the Center will contribute Administrative oversight, working closely with the administrative technical advisor, the dean of ARD and the dean of Nebraska Extension.

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.

More about BSI Projects

Nebraska Integrated Beef Systems Initiative (NIBSI)

The Nebraska Integrated Beef Systems Initiative (NIBSI) was launched in 2016 in the University’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. It is designed to leverage the many systems-based efforts underway at Nebraska to advance science-driven innovation in development of resilient systems for food animal production, health and well-being, and to train the diverse workforce required. With broad capacity across research, teaching and outreach, this initiative will take advantage of the state and university’s potential to lead the development of resilient, integrated systems for the production and delivery of nutritious, high-quality beef.


To create knowledge of alternative systems for efficient, profitable and sustainable beef production through integrated and interdisciplinary research efforts and to deliver information and tools based on that knowledge through formal student training and extension activities enabling more informed decisions.

These systems will cut across all segments of the industry acknowledging the interacting effects of genetic potential of cattle with varying production environments and management practices and recognizing consumer desire for healthy, nutritious, and safe animal protein products and their attitude toward animal health and well being. The BSI serves as the founding 5-year project to inform the direction and needs of the visionary, holistic NIBSI. The BSI also provides a model for developing and supporting transdisciplinary, inclusive team science as well as assessing current resources (land, animals, people and facilities) and infrastructure needs to support future integrated systems level beef research from gate to plate.

A Center Platform for NIBSI

A Center Platform—continue to leverage and grow identify for NIBSI within Center for Grassland Studies.

Phase I Planning Paper

Hatch Multistate Committee Projects

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.

More about Hatch Multistate Projects

Foundation for Food and Ag Research

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds unique public-private partnerships to support innovative science addressing today’s food and agriculture challenges. The Advanced Animal Systems Challenge Area supports sustainable animal systems through innovative technologies, environmentally sound production practices and advancements in animal health and welfare. FFAR matches every federal dollar with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. The funding supports bold, innovative grants to fill critical knowledge gaps and advance science. This work improves the food and agriculture system and provides a better quality of life for Americans and people around the globe. FFAR’s work seeks to provide every person access to affordable, nutritious food grown on thriving farms.

More about FFAR 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.

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 Initiatives include: