Department of Animal Science


Date of this Version



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2020 Nebraska Beef Cattle Report


Data were compiled on feed usage to model the amount of water needed to produce beef in typical Nebraska production systems. Production systems where cows were wintered on corn residue utilized 18% less water than systems utilizing native range as a wintering source, because of water allocations. Therefore, the water footprint (gallons of water required to produce one pound of boneless meat) was decreased by 18%. In addition, increasing the dietary inclusion of distillers grains from 0% to 40% decreased the water footprint in the finishing phase by 29%, again based on water allocation. Utilizing corn residue and distillers grains in Nebraska beef cattle systems decreases the overall water footprint of production. Additionally, the water footprint of the systems analyzed was 80% green water as rain, minimizing the environmental impact of beef production on freshwater use and ecological water balance.