Multiple investigations were undertaken to evaluate the value of three facets of beef cattle production. In the first study, price and quantity effects of ?-adrenergic agonists removal from beef cattle production were estimated using a stochastic equilibrium displacement model. In the long run, beef consumers, packer/processors, and feedlots face reduced prices and increased quantities. Price and quantity of feeder calves increases. Even with reduced prices for consumers, there are also reduced prices for other market sectors, making them less profitable and threatening their economic sustainability. It also increases the number of animals needed to meet demand and increases the demand on environmental resources. ?-adrenergic agonists improve both environmental and economic sustainability.
In the second study, fatty acid composition and shear force analysis, along with a discrete choice experiment were conducted to evaluate consumer preferences for sirloin steaks from steers fed post-extraction algal residue (PEAR) or conventional (grain-based) feeding systems, tenderness, quality grade, origin, use of growth technologies, and price of beef. Ninety six consumers participated in a sensory tasting panel before completing a choice set survey; 127 consumers completed only the choice set survey. Sensory tasting of the products was observed to alter the preferences of consumers. Consumers completing only the survey perceived beef from PEAR-fed cattle negatively compared to beef from grain-fed cattle, with a willingness to pay (WTP) discount of -$1.17/kg. With sensory tasting the WTP for beef from PEAR-fed cattle was not discounted relative to beef from grain-fed cattle (P = 0.21). No tasting consumers had much higher stated WTP values for credence attributes. Factors that influence the eating experience (tenderness, quality grade) dominated as the most influential attributes on WTP among the tasting group.
In the final study, variables influencing the mortality of feedlot cattle during their last 48 days on feed (DOF) were determined. A predictive model of mortality in the feedlot for the upcoming week was also built. Ordinary least squares, Poisson, and Negative Binomial regressions were estimated. Factors identified as influencing mortality in cattle during their last 48 DOF include weight, time of year placed in the feedyard, weather, number of animals not receiving ?-AAs, feeder cattle price, DOF, and previous mortality within the population, along with combinations of several of these factors.
Results from these studies suggest there is value in each practice evaluated. Ultimately, each practice can improve economic and/or environmental sustainability. Production elements must be carefully evaluated from many angles before decisions on whether to implement or remove the practices can be decided.
- Sawyer, Jason Associate Professor and Associate Department Head