July 17, 2023

Summary: WSASAS Beef Symposium: Climate Adaptation Strategies for the Beef Industry of the Great Plains and Western US

Summary: WSASAS Beef Symposium: Climate Adaptation Strategies for the Beef Industry of the Great Plains and Western US

By: Anne Zinn

On Sunday, July 15, the ASAS Annual Meeting kicked off in Albuquerque, New Mexico with a Beef Symposium sponsored by the Western Section. The session was led by Dr. Glenn Duff of New Mexico State and focused on climate adaptation strategies for the beef industry of the Great Plains and Western United States. The beef industry has historically been economically important to the Western Plains; as climate change and drought impact production, the industry is faced with the opportunity and need to adapt to climate impacts and consumer needs. 

To begin, Jamie Luke (Kansas State University), set the stage for the afternoon by outlining the past, present, and future contribution of the beef industry to the economy of the Great Plains and Western United States. Luke laid the foundation for a robust conversation regarding climate adaptation strategies in the industry. To follow, Sara Place (AgNext, Colorado State University), presented on the potential impacts of future climate scenarios on the beef industry, including increasing heat stress, decreasing forage availability, impacting forage quality, and reducing water availability for drinking water and feed production. Place emphasized that the increased climate variability and aridification of some parts of the Great Plains and Western US will create risks for the beef industry that will likely necessitate changes, from shifting cattle population to increased use of heat stress mitigation strategies.

To continue, Justin Derner of the USDA, shared practical considerations for adaptive strategies by grazing land managers with a changing climate, sharing that this can be accelerated through collaborative efforts amongst the industry, co-produced research, the development of communities of practice and learning opportunities, and the continued co-development and advancement of technologies and tools that result in high uptake adoption by ranch managers. 

Dr. Eileen Armstrong, Professor at Universidad de la Republica, then presented on the potential role heritage genetics could play in climate adaptation, sharing various studies related to the Criollo cattle that have shown that they can produce high quality meat, are resistant to diseases and heat stress, have high fertility, and the ability to adapt to harsh environments. While more research is warranted, Armstrong suggested the Criollo genetics could be part of the solution to modern livestock production concerns. 

Two speakers focused on precision livestock farming tools - the first, Santiago Utsumi of New Mexico State discussed strategies for climate-smart grazing, and then  Dr. Luis Tedeschi of Texas A&M discussed  tools for climate-smart feedyard operations. 

To close out the session, Duff presented on tools for climate-smart decision making for the stocker/feedlot sector and David Anderson of Texas A&M shared the vulnerabilities of the regional beef supply chain. Duff emphasized the importance of building resilience in evaluating climate-smart practices as a way to satisfy multiple objectives, including impacting food security.

The impact of climate change on the beef industry remains an important topic of discussion that requires additional attention and commitment.