What's in the news right now about environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable beef value chain.


Executive Director's Message

I want to start this week by saying farewell to Mona Wolverton. Those of you who have been with GRSB for a while will be very familiar with Mona, who has been with us since 2012, the year GRSB was officially formed.

Throughout that time, Mona has been our main membership and administrative staff member in the NLPA office in Colorado Springs; she has arranged all of our meetings, she has organised logistics, schedules, the app and much more for our conferences in Brazil, Canada and Ireland, as well as board meetings in Australia, the Netherlands and in the US; she has taken care of our membership administration, set up all of our board and EC calls, and taken notes for all of them She has done so much that I can't list everything here; in short, Mona has been absolutely central to the organisation, and we will certainly miss her good humour and incredible dedication.

Thank you, Mona, for everything!

Two major issues have hit the news again since the last Connect, though both are ones which I have covered often in the past. The first was the announcement by McDonald's of their antibiotics policy for beef
(see pdf here).

I would certainly commend McDonald's for their phased approach, which is very much in line with our own antimicrobial stewardship statement in terms of Refine, Reduce and Replacing antibiotics where feasible. The fact that they have allowed two years for data collection to really understand what is currently being used, and then aim to set reduction targets for medically important antibiotics will allow time for industry to look at alternatives in terms of management, prevention and classes of antibiotics used. There will then be a further two years before reporting progress on the reduction targets starts.

Clearly one of the main classes of antibiotics that will be in the spotlight are the macrolides that are used for both shipping fever and for liver abscess. There are already a number of approaches including preconditioning, vaccines and immuno–stimulants for BRD and including higher amounts roughage in the diet for liver abscess that may lead to reductions in the use of macrolides without negative impacts on welfare and productivity; the timeframe in the policy allows for those and other management protocols to be evaluated before targets are set.

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director

Antibiotics and Beef

Bovine Respiratory Disease
Beef Cattle Research Council
Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) is the most common and costly disease affecting the North American beef cattle industry. In the broadest sense, BRD refers to any disease of the upper or lower respiratory tracts. BRD is commonly associated with infections of the lungs causing pneumonia in calves that have recently been weaned or recently arrived at the feedlot (which is why it is often referred to as shipping fever). BRD is most prevalent within the first weeks of arrival to the feedlot, but it can occur later in the feeding period and is also seen in calves on pasture.

Reducing Shipping Fever in Beef Calves
Bovine Veterinarian | September 28, 2017
There are many management practices, in addition to vaccinations, that can aid in reducing the occurrence of shipping fever. These efforts generally focus on (1) increasing disease resistance of calves and (2) lowering or spreading out the disease challenge. Resistance can be increased by providing good nutrition, immunity (including vaccinations), disposition and maintaining good overall health. The disease challenge can be several of the following factors: weaning, castration, dehorning, feed and water deprivation, inclement weather, infectious agents, transportation, dehydration and parasitism.

Efficacy of Oral Administration of Sodium Iodide to Prevent Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex
B.M. Shoemake, B.L. Vander Ley, B.W. Newcomer, M.C. Heller, Journal Of Veterinary Medicine | January 28, 2018
The prevention of bovine respiratory disease complex (BRD) in beef cattle is important to maintaining health and productivity of calves in feeding operations. This research suggests that Sodium Iodide orally administered can result in nasal fluid Iodine concentrations high enough to inactivate pathogens involved in BRD. The system might be useful in preventing bovine respiratory infections.

Control of Liver Abscesses in Feedlot Cattle: A Review
C.D.Reinhardt PAS, M.E.Hubbert, The Professional Animal Scientist | April, 2015
Liver abscesses are often, but not always, associated with perforations in the rumen wall. Tylosin phosphate is commonly fed to control LA. Feeding elevated levels of roughage during growing and finishing periods results in a dramatic reduction in LA; overprocessing of dietary roughage reduces its effectiveness. Providing a source of true scratch–factor to the rumen, either by increasing the percentage of coarse roughage included in the TMR or by periodically providing coarse hay apart from the TMR, appears to be the most effective method of reducing LA.

Liver Abscesses: Beyond Just Liver Condemnation
John Maday, Bovine Veterinarian | April 17, 2018
With beef liver prices depressed at around $3 at the packer level, liver condemnations due to abscesses represent a relatively minor economic problem. But, says West Texas A&M University Animal Scientist Ty Lawrence, PhD, the economic impact of liver abscesses in feedyard cattle can run much higher due to lost performance and carcass quality. And when liver values increase, the cost of condemnations can add up to significant reductions in total carcass value.

The other major topic that will not have escaped most of your attention is the COP24 UNFCCC climate summit in Poland. I attended as an observer and was invited to speak during the WWF session on grassland (video link).

There are a few things to be said about the meeting as far as beef is concerned. There has been more criticism of the meat industry as a whole and beef in particular this year than ever before. Some of you may already be aware of the EAT Lancet "commission" – I attended a side meeting in which they presented some of their recommendations. It is, pure and simple, a platform to promote vegetarian diets, based on what they claim is the role of meat and dairy in obesity, poor health and negative environmental impacts.

GRSB would not exist if we as an industry had not felt that there were aspects of beef production that we needed to improve upon, and demonstrate that the industry can indeed be better for people, planet, profit and animals.

However, the whole notion that beef production can play an extremely positive role in food systems is being swept aside by ideologues with no interest in what can be done to improve things, but only in reducing consumption of animal products.

Grazing herbivores, including cattle, are essential to sequestering huge volumes of carbon in agricultural soils and increasing soil moisture retention. Grazing systems also play a huge role in maintaining biodiversity on the world's 8.4 million acres of grazing land while feeding a growing global population with highly nutrient dense food.

Below I include a number of articles on both the potential environmental benefits and health benefits of cattle.


Grassland Management Impacts on Soil Carbon Stocks: A New Synthesis
Richard T. Conant, Carlos E. P. Cerri, Brooke B. Osborne, Keith Paustian, Ecological Applications of America | March 7, 2017
Grassland ecosystems cover a large portion of Earth's' surface and contain substantial amounts of soil organic carbon. Previous work has established that these soil carbon stocks are sensitive to management and land use changes: grazing, species composition, and mineral nutrient availability can lead to losses or gains of soil carbon. Because of the large annual carbon fluxes into and out of grassland systems, there has been growing interest in how changes in management might shift the net balance of these flows, stemming losses from degrading grasslands or managing systems to increase soil carbon stocks (i.e., carbon sequestration).

These new data largely confirm our earlier conclusions: improved grazing management, fertilization, sowing legumes and improved grass species, irrigation, and conversion from cultivation all tend to lead to increased soil C, at rates ranging from 0.105 to more than 1 Mg C·ha−1·yr−1. The data in this synthesis confirm that improving grassland management practices and conversion from cropland to grassland improve soil carbon stocks.

Multi–Paddock Grazing on Rangelands: Why the Perceptual Dichotomy Between Research Results and Rancher Experience?
Journal of Environmental Management | July 11, 2013
Multi–paddock grazing management has been recommended since the mid–20th century as an important tool to adaptively manage rangelands ecosystems to sustain productivity and improve animal management. Moreover, there is much anecdotal evidence from producers that, if applied appropriately, multi–paddock grazing can improve forage and livestock production.

Emerging Land Use Practices Rapidly Increase Soil Organic Matter
Megan B. Machmuller, Marc G. Kramer, Taylor K. Cyle, Nick Hill, Dennis Hancock & Aaron Thompson, Nature Communications | April 30, 2015
The loss of organic matter from agricultural lands constrains our ability to sustainably feed a growing population and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Addressing these challenges requires land use activities that accumulate soil carbon (C) while contributing to food production. In a region of extensive soil degradation in the southeastern United States, we evaluated soil C accumulation for 3 years across a 7–year chronosequence of three farms converted to management–intensive grazing.

Here we show that these farms accumulated C at 8.0 Mg ha−1 yr−1, increasing cation exchange and water holding capacity by 95% and 34%, respectively. Thus, within a decade of management–intensive grazing practices soil C levels returned to those of native forest soils, and likely decreased fertilizer and irrigation demands. Emerging land uses, such as management–intensive grazing, may offer a rare win–win strategy combining profitable food production with rapid improvement of soil quality and short–term climate mitigation through soil C–accumulation.

Carbon–Neutral Wool Farming In South–Eastern Australia
Animal Production Science | 2016
This study analysed the carbon balance of a wool case study farm, Talaheni, in south–eastern Australia to determine if the farm was carbon neutral. The results showed that from when the farm was purchased in 1980–2012 the farm had sequestered 11 times more carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) in trees and soil than was produced by livestock and energy. Between 1980 and 2012 a total of 31 100 t CO2e were sequestered with 19 300 and 11 800 t CO2e in trees and soil, respectively, whereas farm emissions totalled 2800 t CO2e.

There was a sufficient increase in soil carbon stocks alone to offset all GHGE at the study site. This study demonstrated that there are substantial gains to be made in soil carbon stocks where initial soils are eroded and degraded and there is the opportunity to increase soil carbon either through planting trees or introducing perennial pastures to store more carbon under pastures.

Evaluating the Ranch and Watershed Scale Impacts of Using Traditional and Adaptive Multi–Paddock Grazing on Runoff, Sediment and Nutrient Losses in North Texas, USA
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment | February 3, 2017
Grazing management practices have a significant influence on ecosystem services provided by rangelands.At the watershed–scale, changing grazing management from the baseline Heavy Continuous to adaptive Multi Paddock reduced the average annual surface runoff, sediment, Total Nitrogen and Total Phosphorous loads at the watershed outlet by 39%, 34%, 33% and 31%, respectively.

In addition, implementation of adaptive Multi Paddock grazing reduced streamflow during the high flow conditions that have 10% exceedance probability, by about 20%, and hence reduced the chances of flooding downstream of the watershed. Adaptive MP grazing was therefore found to be an effective conservation practice on grazing lands for enhancing water conservation and protecting water quality.

Achieving Net Zero
Tim Kruger, Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford
Methane, a greenhouse gas generated in large quantities by ruminant livestock and rice cultivation, causes strong warming while it remains in the atmosphere, but does not accumulate in the atmosphere like carbon dioxide (CO2) as it has a half–life of around a decade. Because CO2 emissions accumulate, halting the rise in global temperature requires net CO2 emissions to be reduced to zero. This presentation will focus on what "net zero warming" would mean for methane emissions, in particular for agriculture.

How the climate responds to short–lived pollutants like methane is well understood. Sources of methane that have been stable for centuries cause no further warming. For sources that increased over the past century, a gradual emissions decline offsets the slow deep ocean climate response to that past increase, and also results in net zero warming.

The Role of Ruminants in Reducing Agriculture's Carbon Footprint in North America
Journal of Soil and Water Conservation | March 2016
Owing to the methane (CH4) produced by rumen fermentation, ruminants are a source of greenhouse gas (GHG) and are perceived as a problem. We propose that with appropriate regenerative crop and grazing management, ruminants not only reduce overall GHG emissions, but also facilitate provision of essential ecosystem services, increase soil carbon (C) sequestration, and reduce environmental damage.

We conclude that to ensure long term sustainability and ecological resilience of agroecosystems, agricultural production should be guided by policies and regenerative management protocols that include ruminant grazing.

The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet
The Big Fat Surprise.com
With eye–opening scientific rigor, THE BIG FAT SURPRISE upends the conventional wisdom about all fats with the groundbreaking claim that more, not less, dietary fat — including saturated fat — is what leads to better health, wellness, and fitness. Science shows that we have been needlessly avoiding meat, cheese, whole milk and eggs for decades and that we can, guilt–free, welcome these "whole fats" back into our lives.

Vegan Diets Are Adding to Malnutrition in Wealthy Countries
Chris Elliott, Chen Situ, Claire McEvoy, The Conversation | December 13, 2018
Bone health is a concern for long–term vegans. Vegans are consistently reported to have lower intakes of calcium and vitamin D, with resultant lower blood levels of vitamin D and lower bone mineral density reported worldwide. Fracture rates are also nearly a third higher among vegans compared with the general population.

Omega 3 and iodine levels are also lower compared with meat eaters, as are vitamin B12 levels. Vitamin B12 is most often obtained from animal foods, and higher rates of deficiency have been found in vegans compared with other vegetarians and meat eaters. The symptoms can be serious and include extreme tiredness and weakness, poor digestion and developmental delays in young children. Untreated, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause irreversible nerve damage.

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