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


Executive Director's Message

I was at KSU in Manhattan Kansas last week for a planning meeting of the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock. Most of you will have heard me talk about GASL, which is an FAO led multi stakeholder initiative working on the sustainability of all livestock systems. There are a few differences in the makeup of GASL and GRSB; representation is somewhat different, with national governments playing a prominent role in GASL, which is as one might expect for a UN led initiative (see their clusters HERE).

Our focus is much more private sector led, though I mean that in the broadest sense; in GRSB and our member roundtables, producers play a pre–eminent role, which I believe is as it should be if the ultimate aim is to assist producers and the rest of the chain to  continuously improve performance for people, planet, profit and animals.

The planning meeting was for GASL's annual event which will take place at KSU in September. This is the first time that this event is being held in the US; up till now it has always been in lower-or-middle-income countries.

One of the "action networks" of the agenda is 'closing the efficiency gap', and I think holding the meeting in the US will give participants an excellent opportunity to see the improvements in efficiency and sustainability that technology and innovation has enabled in US production systems.

I hope that the papers being prepared for the September meeting will focus on what is already being achieved to improve sustainability, and the enormous potential that could be unlocked by investing in livestock systems in lower income countries. All too many reports have focused on negative impacts, how to quantify them, and then extrapolated expected future demand to emphasise that problems are only going to get worse.

GRSB and our member roundtables approach however, has been to create principles that look forward to how we can improve. They are by nature a more positive way of looking to the future, to ensure that we can meet our needs today and going forward, without compromising future generations ability to meet theirs.

Coming to the US will demonstrate what is possible (and I am sure that there will be discussion as to what extent some innovations or technologies are desirable), and will present a contrast to some of the previous meetings; I very much hope that it will also mark a move to a proactive, forward looking and positive approach to addressing sustainability in all livestock sectors.

For this Connect, here are some examples of positive developments in each of our principle areas:

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director

Natural Resources

Production and Biodiversity 'Can Work Together'
Farming Life | February 28, 2019
A study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, claims British farms could produce more food while also supporting wildlife. The researchers found biodiversity was greatest when the efficiency of the system was increased and the spare land was devoted to species–rich grassland.

Biodiversity gains were also evident when spare land was used for additional crop production, especially when these additional crops supported different species of wildlife. "Optimum farmland composition typically depends on whether to maximise production or biodiversity. But we have shown this doesn't have to be the case," said Dr Patrick White, lecturer in conservation biology at Edinburgh Napier. "Greatest 'win–wins' can be achieved by making productive land cover more diverse and selecting crops that complement each other in the species they support."

I have talked about the heritability of low RFI in cattle before, and its potential use in reducing methane emissions. The article below explores this potential further. However, it is worth noting that in cattle on pasture (through work done in Australia), the benefits seen in fed cattle have not been reliably replicated.

Further work in Scotland examined behavioural traits of fed cattle and RFI, finding that more dominant cattle were able to eat more frequently in smaller volumes, and that the reductions in Daily Methane Production may be related to the pattern of eating enabled by dominant behaviour, which is not replicated in a grazing situation.

Animal Board Invited Review: Genetic Possibilities To Reduce Enteric Methane Emissions From Ruminants
The Animal Consortium 2015
There is potential for adopting genetic selection and in the future genomic selection, for reduced CH4 emissions in ruminants. From this review it has been observed that direct measurement of CH4 emissions from RC, SF6 or PAC has proven underlying animal genetic variability. Subsequently, indirect indicators were explored through genetic correlations with CH4 trait. It can be concluded that indirect and genomic selection might be possible options for near future selection. CH4 emissions are a heritable and repeatable trait. CH4 emissions are strongly related to feed intake both in the short term (minutes to several hours) and over the medium term (days).

People and the Community

Beef and Consumer Trust: Don't Just Tell Your Story, Live It
James Nason, BEEF Central | March 8, 2019
In a message that may come as a surprise to beef producers, given the tone of anti–meat headlines and commentary on social media, is that in Ian McConnell's view the industry still enjoys strong levels of approval. "Any belief from you as an industry that falls below that line is pure pessimism," he said "All up, I will challenge you, it is purely you listening to your own Facebook feed, you're being told that everybody is against you, because someone was against you, and when an activist says something two groups listen – his Facebook friends, and the person he is attacking.

And the person he is attacking amplifies his message within his peers. It is why we tend to over exaggerate the impact. Farming is still one of the most trusted professions in the world, second only to careers that save lives, such as paramedics and emergency services. Farmers are still intrinsic to who we are, especially in Australia."

Managing Grazing To Restore Soil Health and Farm Livelihoods
W R Teague, Oxford Journal of Animal Science | February 1, 2019
Effective soil management provides the greatest potential for achieving sustainable use of agricultural land with rapidly changing, uncertain and variable climate. With appropriate management of grazing enterprises, soil function can be regenerated to improve essential ecosystem services and farm profitability.

View More News

Animal Health and Wellbeing

5 Industry Insiders Share Thoughts on Advancing Antimicrobial Stewardship
Kindra Gordon, BEEF Magazine | February 28, 2019
How can the beef industry improve efforts for judicious use of antibiotics? Five industry representatives shared their thoughts during a panel discussion at the 2019 Cattle Industry Convention in New Orleans. Meet them HERE.

Impact of Good Practices of Handling Training on Beef Cattle Welfare and Stockpeople Attitudes and Behaviors
Livestock Science, Elsevier | August 22, 2018
Stockpersons' attitudes and behaviors varied according to their degree of training in good practices of beef cattle handling. People who participated in a formal training course had the highest positive and the lowest negative behavior and attitude scores, compared with people in the other groups. We observed an effect of the progression of the workday only on non–trained farms, where handling became worse over time.

Our results support the hypothesis that training stockpeople in good cattle handling practices leads to better attitudes and behavior toward cattle. Thus, training stockpeople can be an effective and practical strategy to promote positive human–animal interactions on beef cattle farms, improving the quality of life of both animals and workers.


Global News

Australia–Indonesia Trade Deal a 'Winner' for the Meat Industry
Ashley Williams, Global Meat News | March 5, 2019
The Australian meat industry has praised the signing of the Indonesia–Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement.
View More News


We generally think of food safety as a sine qua non in high income countries, but this is not the case everywhere. As with all aspects of sustainability, this requires significant investment in lower income countries, and is particularly relevant to the livestock sector, as animal source foods are implicated in many cases.
Food Safety In Developing Countries: An Overview
Delia Grace, AgriLinks | October 2015
The full burden of Foodborne Disease(FBD) in developing countries is not known but experts believe that developing countries bear the brunt of FBD. This is plausible given that: high levels of hazards are often reported in developing country food; high prevalences of potentially foodborne pathogens are found in hospital and community surveys of children and adults with diarrhoea; a lack of clean water for washing food and utensils is common (around 750 million people do not have access to clean water; and the use of human sewage or animal waste for horticulture production is common in developing countries.

Efficiency and Innovation

Since we know that demand is growing fastest in LDCs, and that it is largely met by expansion of numbers rather than increased efficiency, it's essential that resources are invested in those regions to steer livestock development in the right direction.
Supporting Sustainable Expansion of Livestock Production In South Asia and Sub–Saharan Africa: Scenario Analysis of Investment Options
Science Direct, Global Food Security
Growth in demand for livestock–derived foods will likely remain strong in low– and middle– income countries, fueling concerns about expansion of production and the management of natural resources. Recent research suggests that the envisioned negative effects are not inevitable and that benefits such as improved food security can be enhanced.

Targeted investments to the livestock sector could help make these happen. We use scenario analysis to explore this question, assessing the impacts of selected investment options in sub–Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Our results show that boosting livestock productivity primarily in these two regions could improve food security and producer incomes while limiting greenhouse gas emissions and agricultural water usage. Market–improving investments with similar welfare gains lead to environmental impacts that necessitate complementary investments.

Bull Selection: Using Economically Relevant Traits
Beef Cattle Research Council | February 21, 2019
Sire selection often encompass a variety of factors such as how well a bull fits into the breeding objectives of your operation, breed, conformation, pedigree, birthweight, and price.

Olds College Certified as a Sustainable Beef Producer
Jordan Bay, Red Deer News Now | February 27, 2019
Olds College has been recognized as a "Certified Sustainable" beef production facility by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB). Stuart Cullum, President, Olds College says the recognition is a huge honor.

"As a post–secondary institution focused on agriculture, it is important for Olds College to raise our livestock using sustainable methods that support healthy animals, has minimal environmental impacts and offers transparency to the consumer," he says."We are very proud that our practices meet the standard to be recognized as a Verified Beef Production Plus and CRSB Certified Operation."

Transitioning Beef Cattle to a Defined Breeding and Calving Season
Virginia Cooperative Extension | 2018
Cow–calf producers are continually seeking ways to increase their profitability. While numerous best management practices exist, one of the most impactful is establishing and maintaining a defined breeding and calving season. Controlling the length of the breeding season with a defined period of no more than 60–90 days is positively correlated with reduced annual costs per cow and increased profitability.

This practice can result in a more uniform group of calves that can be managed and marketed more effectively. Other benefits include improved herd management, optimization of labor, enhanced herd health, and conservation of feed and forage resources.

View More News
Administrative Offices:
13570 Meadowgrass Drive, Suite 201
Colorado Springs, CO 80921 USA
Phone: 1-719-355-2935
Fax: 1-719-538-8847
Email: admin@grsbeef.org
Copyright ©2019 Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. All rights reserved.
You are receiving this message as a benefit of membership to the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef