The objective of this project is to test whether beef cattle production efficiencies – identified by residual feed intake (RFI) and genetic selection – are associated with cow/calf performance under open-range grazing production systems. The long-term objective is to explore the performance of current selection methods and the need for alternative approaches to optimize feed efficiency and RFI for cow/calf herds grazing on extensively managed rangelands in Alberta. This project will provide much needed information on how current genetic improvement programs for beef cattle may impact cow/calf production under open-range grazing, as well as the associated profitability and GHG emission reductions as a result. Cattle are significant producers of methane. The comparative impact of methane on climate change is more than 20 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.

In Alberta, one of North America’s largest beef-producing regions, reducing cow herd GHG emissions is crucial to improving the environmental footprint of beef production. Increasing the efficiency of cow-calf production systems will help ensure the long-term sustainability of the beef industry in the province. The project also has the potential to support development of innovative policy to encourage GHG reductions on grazed rangelands, including the 7 million hectares of native grassland in Alberta.

ERA funded this project through the Biological GHG Management Program, administered by Alberta Innovates. Other project partners include the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency.