NMSU researchers study sustainable beef production

New Mexico News

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) – Researchers at New Mexico State University predict more obstacles are on the way for ranchers in the southwest due to climate change. But they’re hoping a new study will take some of the strain off ranchers and create new options for them.

Researchers at NMSU say recurring droughts will only make raising cattle in the southwest more difficult. “Most of the climate models predict that droughts will become more frequent than they have been in the past that we will see more extreme weather,” says Range Science Professor Andres Cibils.

Cibils says over the past 50 years, temperatures have gotten warmer, and forage production has declined by 45 percent at NMSU test sites. “The profit margins are very very slim. The way that people have been doing business for the past many years could basically result in the cutting into the already very slim margins,” Cibils says.

Cibils says the goal of their research is to make beef production in the southwest ecologically and financially sustainable long term. One approach to that is cross-breeding commercial beef bulls Criollo cattle, potentially breed calves that thrive in the southwest climate. “They seem to approach the problem of grazing and foraging in an environment like this one differently than many of the commercial breeds that we are used to working with,” Cibils says.

The first cohort of calves is at the Clayton livestock research center for backgrounding. then taste panels done at Texas A&M will determine how the crossbred beef compares to other commercial beef. Cibils hopes the study will give ranchers more freedom, so they aren’t constrained to one supply chain. “We don’t expect that this will be a silver bullet but it’s another option,” Cibils says.

This is a five-year-long study and at the end of it, researchers will have bred- nearly 400 calves. Which they will sell to ranchers in New Mexico and across the southwest.

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