Beef Cattle Selection and Management for Adaptation to Drought


  • Characterize the role of water intake on beef cattle performance traits that impact producer profitability and consumer acceptability
  • Better understand how genetics and microbial populations in the gut impact water use in beef cattle
  • Develop beef cattle selection and management tools that address conservation of water resources and adaptation to climate change


  • Characterize water restriction in cattle, including animal behavior, health implications, and thermal stress
  • Use genomic technologies to better understand the role of genetics in water intake and adaptability to limited and low-quality water resources
  • Characterize the gut (rumen and fecal) microbiome via metagenomic sequencing before and during water restriction
  • Compare performance, feed efficiency, carcass quality, health, and environmental impact of low vs. high water intake in beef cattle
  • Expand the Cattle Comfort Advisor (Fig 1) into a national management tool, develop a decision support tool to predict cattle water demand
  • Assess consumer attitudes about beef sustainability and climate change
  • Develop online educational modules that address consumer misconceptions about beef sustainability and teach producers about the new tools developed in this proposal

Figure 1:  Example of the Mesonet Cattle Comfort Advisor index for beef cattle in Oklahoma

Future Impact

  • This project will yield practical tools and solutions allowing US beef producers to adapt to limited water resources caused by climate change
  • Beef producers will be better equipped to make decisions facilitating the management of water resources, reduce the incidence of thermal stress in cattle, and mitigate the effects of climate change
  • Decision support tools for water use will be developed and widely disseminated, which will result in increased water management opportunities for beef producers
  • Consumer knowledge about sustainable beef production and the effects of climate change on beef production practices will be enhanced
  • Producers will become more educated on consumers’ acceptance of production practices that mitigate climate change and enhance beef sustainability


M.M. Rolf*, M.S. Calvo-Lorenzo*, S.E. Place*, C. Richards*, U. DeSilva*, R. Mateescu#, C. Krehbiel*, D. VanOverbeke*, A. Sutherland§, and D.L. Step*

*Oklahoma State University, #University of Florida, §Oklahoma Mesonet 


This project was supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2014-67004-21624 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.