Growing Beef newsletter

Director Column

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Dan Loy, Iowa Beef Center director's monthly column featured in Cattleman Magazine. Archives

Dan Loy in The Cattleman Magazine


October 2021

Sustainable beef can be a solution to climate change

Sustainability of beef is a topic that has everyone’s attention. Cattle are criticized for their production of enteric methane. However, carbon is a cycle and while the net greenhouse gas (GHG) production of the beef industry has been estimated at 2% of US GHG production and 6% of the global GHG production based on information from the EPA and the FAO, the production systems that produce beef have the potential to capture and store much more carbon than beef produce.

A review by several noted scientists who study this was published in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. It suggests that by adopting adaptive multi-paddock grazing management and conservation based cropping practices including cover crops, reduced tillage and reduced fertilizer use through legumes and manure that beef production, can be not only carbon neutral but carbon negative. In fact, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association recently announce sustainability goals that include climate neutrality for the beef industry by 2040. Other sustainability goals announced included:

  • Economic: Create and enhance opportunities that result in quantifiable increase in producer profitability and economic sustainability by 2025.
  • Social: Enhance trust in cattle producers as responsible stewards of their animals and resources by expanding educational opportunities in animal care and handling programs to further improve animal well-being.
  • Social: Continuously improve our industry’s workforce safety and well-being.

At the Iowa Beef Center, we have resources for producers to work toward these sustainability goals. To learn more about multi-paddock rotational grazing, our Pasture Management Guide is a good resource. For more information on cover crop grazing, alternative forages including summer annuals ask your regional beef specialist about upcoming programming and check out our website for resources. Your local NRCS offices offer help in developing grazing plans and other conservation practices.

To achieve the goal of enhancing trust as responsible stewards of the animals there is no better program than the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) The BQA program is provided in partnership with the Iowa Beef Industry Council, and a list of upcoming events can be found at their website at

Many practices that enhance sustainability also enhance producer profitability. This is especially true for producers who keep their eye on costs of production, technologies that enhance efficiency and risk management. Providing access to information and education related to these is central to our mission which is “to enhance the vitality, profitability and growth of the Iowa beef industry through timely and relevant producer education, applied research and improved access to information.” Efficiency and profitability start with good records. If you are interested in one of our newly revised calving books send us an email at or drop us a note and we will send you one.

Please take the sustainability goal of worker safety and well-being seriously this fall. Agriculture is among the most dangerous occupations and the cattle industry is 4 times more dangerous than ag in general. One could argue that with harvest and the cattle handling involved in the fall calf run, October is among the most dangerous months for Iowa producers. Please be thoughtful about safety around machinery and grain handling and manure gases especially. Wear a hydrogen sulfide gas monitor when pumping liquid manure. Use low stress cattle handling methods and review your facilities for potential safety issues for both the people and cattle.

The IBC at Iowa State University serves as the university’s extension program to cattle producers. Our center comprises a team of faculty and staff from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. We work together to develop and deliver the latest in research-based information to improve the profitability and vitality of Iowa’s beef industry. If you’d like to be notified of updates on progress of research projects or programs that might be coming to your area, please subscribe to our “Growing Beef” newsletter by following the link on our website, If you have a question, use the “Ask our Experts” link on the website. Also, feel free to call us at 515-294-BEEF or email us at You can also follow @iowabeefcenter on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and now, AgFuse!