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In 2017, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Institute of Agricultural and Natural Resources (IANR) and Nebraska Extension made a commitment to implement a multidisciplinary Beef Systems Initiative (BSI). BSI is administered by the Center for Grassland Studies and is comprised of six projects designed to develop and support implementation of beef production systems that optimize feed resource use, natural resource conservation, and producer success in Nebraska through improved management of perennial grasslands and systems of integrated crop-beef cattle production. In addition to BSI, a parallel project funded by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) is studying the best practices for incorporating beef cattle onto cropping systems while improving ecosystem services to ensure sustainability. Both of these efforts include components focused on producer and community outreach through Nebraska Extension. To this end, five geographically identified producer panels and an agricultural lenders panel were formed to provide input and feedback on the project results as they become available.
One of the key points noted from the lenders panel was that producers need to understand their cost of production and their operation’s costs per cow on an annual basis. When the five producer panel groups met to learn about the initiative, they were introduced to the UNL Cow Herd System Budget program, an Excel-based cost of production template. The producer panel members participated in a discussion to describe a typical cow-calf operation for their particular geographic region of Nebraska. During the summer of 2019, three of the producer panels met again to review draft budgets for their area and provide further input.