15 June 2020

Assessing the value of alternative beef production systems

As part of the Sustainbeef project, various scenarios aimed at reducing the competition between human food and animal feed in beef farming were modelled.

Let us examine this experiment ...

Today, one of the challenges faced by agriculture is to feed an increasing number of humans whose eating habits are changing, particularly regarding their consumption of meat. One possible solution to this challenge involves optimising the rations for farm animals (feed) to avoid competition with human food. The focus of this project is beef farming. This is because, although they are often criticised, ruminants have the advantage of being able to consume grass and by-products of the agro-industry. They may therefore offer a potential solution for sustainable meat production.

In a previous issue of this quarterly publication (CRA-W Info No. 60 - spring 2019), we described the first stage of this project, namely the definition of typical farms and the identification of innovations in collaboration with the actors of the sector. The second stage consists of using the “FarmDyn” modelling tool to compare case studies farms before and after the introduction of these innovations – as regards technical and economic parameters, social and environmental aspects, and the issue of the “feed-food” competition.

In the case of Wallonia, two grass-based fattening scenarios were tested, using dynamic rotational grazing. The first scenario focusses on incorporating this technique into the breeder-fattener system, while the second scenario aims to change the system completely. This is based on the evolution of the Walloon “intensive breeder” type approach towards a purely fattening system that favours males resulting from terminal cross breeding carried out on a dairy farm.

A meeting of experts, farmers and actors of the value chains was organised to discuss the results of these simulations and identify ways of encouraging implementation of these scenarios.

Further work will be aimed at improving these scenarios on the basis of comments made during this meeting, and comparing the Walloon scenarios with those of the project partners.


Funding: ERA-Net SusAn, under Grant Agreement No. 696231.