Land and Water Usage in Beef Production Systems.


This analysis, using published data, compared all land and conserved water use in four beef production systems. A widespread feedlot system and fertilised irrigated pasture systems used similar amounts of land. However, extensive unmodified pasture systems used three times more land, and semi-intensive silvopastoral systems used four times less land, so the highest use was 13 times the lowest. The amount of conserved water used was 64% higher in feedlots with relatively intensive rearing systems than in fertilised irrigated pasture; in extensive unmodified pasture systems, it was 38% and in semi-intensive silvopastoral systems, it was 21% of the fertilised irrigated pasture value, so the highest use was eight times the lowest. If there was no irrigation of pasture or of plants used for cattle feed, the feedlot water use was 12% higher than the fertilised pasture use and 57% higher than that in semi-intensive silvopastoral systems. These large effects of systems on resource use indicate the need to consider all systems when referring to the impact of beef or other products on the global environment. Whilst the use of animals as human food should be reduced, herbivorous animals that consume food that humans cannot eat and are kept using sustainable systems are important for the future use of world resources.