Depletion of the Ogallala aquifer in the U.S. Great Plains demands information on water usage in forage-fed beef production. We compared a summer grazing system for beef steers consisting of warm-season grasses vs. grasses growing with lucerne (Medicago sativa L.). The water footprint averaged 39 and 26 m3 of water kg−1 of beef liveweight gain, respectively, when water included rainfall, irrigation, and livestock drinking. Including lucerne reduced the water footprint of beef weight gain thanks to its ability to alleviate protein deficiency in the associated grasses, thus diminishing an important source of inefficiency in converting feed to meat.
- U.S. Great Plains
- water footprint