Meeting provides glimpse into global demands and the future of livestock

Carol Sanders | UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences         

FernandezFBPINE BLUFF, Ark. – Always of interest to producers are glimpses into what’s ahead. This is what thousands of livestock scientists at the Joint Annual Meeting of the American Society of Animal Science, the American Dairy Science Association and the Canadian Society of Animal Science discussed recently in Kansas City, says Dr. David Fernandez, Cooperative Extension Program livestock specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. This year’s topic centered on meeting the global demands of 2050.

The world’s population is predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050; about 60 percent more food will be necessary. Meat consumption is expected to rise as the world’s population becomes wealthier. China is expected to lead the change in the demand for meat, says Dr. Fernandez.

With U.S. cattle herds at their lowest since the 1950s, the beef supply is low while demand remains strong. This is pushing cattle prices to record highs. Ag economists Glynn Tonsor of Kansas State University and Lee Schultz of Iowa State University predicted strong prices through the next three years. Both predicted that the U.S. cow herd will not recover to its record high 1970s era in the foreseeable future, if ever.

“This means prices should stay strong unless external factors such as changes in the Farm Bill, country of origin labeling issues, government shutdowns or feed prices change significantly,” says Dr. Fernandez.

Sheep and goat producers can take advantage of this situation, says Dr. Fernandez. With meat production down, a demand for more meat and beef prices up, lamb and goat prices are more competitive.

Sheep and goat producers need to better manage parasites and parasite resistance to dewormers, advises Dr. Fernandez. Rotational grazing with short grazing periods helps reduce parasite numbers. Productivity and profits can improve with better pasture management.

Sheep and goats improve pastures by reducing weeds and brush. Cattle producers can add one or two sheep or goats per cow without affecting production of either species, control weeds and brush without spraying and produce more meat per acre, according to Dr. Steve Hart.

Several presenters pointed out the potential improvement in production efficiency by altering the production cycle to more closely follow the changes in forage quality. For livestock producers with warm season grass pastures, calving, lambing and kidding would best be done in May or June, but by adding a cool season annual such as ryegrass, the pasture could provide improved nutrition in March or April.

Stockpiling warm season grasses can extend the fall grazing season as can annual cool season grasses. Producers with largely cool season pastures, mainly fescue in Arkansas, can add warm season annuals for better summer grazing and stockpile fescue for early fall grazing.

Adding legumes, such as clovers and vetch, can reduce the need to add nitrogen to pastures and increase protein content of the forage.

“Perhaps one of the most unusual ideas was a ‘cowless’ cow herd,” says Dr. Fernandez. Producers can breed heifers using artificial insemination and sexed semen to get nearly all female offspring. Heifers can be sold as replacement heifers, bred heifers or kept as dams for the next generation. By weaning the calves early and feeding the dams for about 60 days, the dams can be sold as 30-month-old slaughter cows that will still grade choice.

“There is no need to try to breed difficult two-year-old second calf cows because they have all gone to slaughter,” says Dr. Fernandez. By choosing an easy-calving bull, birthing difficulty can be kept low. While this idea may not be for everyone, it bears investigating if you are one of the better heifer developers, says Fernandez.

With all the changes in the meat industry and more on the way, the Joint Annual Meeting is a great way to stay up to date, suggests Dr. Fernandez. For more information, contact Dr. Fernandez at (870) 575-7214 or

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.


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