Document Type

Research Report

Original Publication Date

2020

Date of Submission

June 2020

Abstract

The geographic concentration of beef concentrated animal feeding operations [CAFOs] has changed the landscape of environmental sustainability for agriculture in the United States. As land availability has decreased, operations have struggled to maintain feasible practices to minimize environmental detriment. The United States Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] imposed rules to be followed as a means of mitigation, but the fast-paced rate of change minimizes effectiveness. The overall environmental sustainability of beef CAFOs has shifted from historical rates, leading to a need for reassessment. Part of this reassessment will include stronger environmental practices to be considered for implementation. I explored the role of manure management practices in CAFOs to evaluate the ways in which these practices contribute to water pollution of nearby sources. Additionally, I investigated what transportation of manure to off-site locations and nutrient management plans [NMPs] can do in relation to rebuilding the health of soil and aquatic ecosystems. The three aforementioned topics are dominated by land availability, so I delved into the impact that the modern decrease of land space plays on overall manure management practice efficiency. Dietary manipulation was also studied because of its relationship with nutrient excess in manure and maintaining animal productivity. In addition to this, cattle-based emissions were considered as they heavily result from feed digestibility. I lastly researched the ways in which water quality is impaired by CAFO functions and how that translates to surrounding lands, aquatic ecosystems, and even human health. The primary impacts of beef CAFOs on environmental sustainability result from decreased land availability. This has led to nutrient overloading from manure and degraded water quality, causing the need for alternative practices. Changing animal diet to increase feed efficiency, transporting manure off-site, and using phosphorus-based nutrient management plans are practices with the greatest promise for increasing environmental sustainability.

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