Pasture-Based Beef Unit


The goal of CEFS’ Pasture-Based Beef Unit is to operate a coastal plain beef cow/calf production system that maximizes profitability while minimizing expenses and has an acceptable impact on the environment.

Our system is based on intensively-managed pastures. The main objective is to demonstrate to beef producers and other stakeholders how efficiently beef cattle can be produced in eastern North Carolina when the production system is managed intensively. The Unit demonstrates all of our common production recommendations and is accessible to farmers, extension agents, and students. Management continually evolves to correct for recommendations that prove unmanageable at the farm scale and to allow for the incorporation of new, research-proven technologies.

An advisory committee of faculty, producers, and industry personnel provides guidance and sets priorities for applied research projects to evaluate components that may be used in the system.

Our Herd & Land

The beef unit is located on 175 acres of land that has marginal value for crop production. The pasture system is a mixture of warm- and cool-season perennial and annual forages. Grazing access is controlled to improve utilization efficiency.

The herd is a cow/calf operation, typical of what is seen in our state. We currently have about 60 cows, 25 developing heifers, and 2 bulls. Calving season has been transitioned to the fall. Heifers will calve about a month ahead of the mature cows, beginning in mid-September.

genetic-stockGenetically, the herd is a mixture of Angus and Senepol breeds with a few cows carrying Hereford as well. The Senepol breed was imported from the Virgin Islands where it was developed under minimal management and with diets based on low-quality forages. Senepol-influence cattle tend to be more heat and insect tolerant than the British breeds (Angus and Hereford). Additionally, some Senepol cattle carry a gene that imparts an extremely short hair coat (“slick hair gene”). While the expression of this gene seems to be complex, it is passed as a dominant gene and so we are trying to incorporate this gene into the herd to help control heat stress.

We are also using Red Angus in hopes of generating red, slick cows that are more tolerant of heat and insects.

Best Management Practices

management-practicesKey “Best Management Practices” that are demonstrated include:

  • Record-keeping and financial management
  • Controlled breeding season
  • Multiple off-stream watering sites
  • Stream and wetland exclusion with buffer strips
  • Optimal herd health program overseen by a veterinarian
  • Year-round planned forage system
  • Controlled grazing management
  • Programmed heifer development
  • Effective crossbreeding program
  • Strategic marketing program
  • Profitable feed supplementation programs

Long-term evaluation of the system will examine the fate of nutrients in pasture soils, long-term profitability and productivity, and the stand life of pasture plantings. Farmers are involved in the project through advisory committee meetings, tour groups, and field days.

Supporting Organizations


Pasture-based Beef Unit multimedia and document resources.

Unit News

Southeast U.S. Hay Harvest Survey

February 19th, 2020|Comments Off on Southeast U.S. Hay Harvest Survey

Extension forage specialists and agents across the Southeast region would like your help in gathering information on hay harvest methods and time required for harvesting [...]

NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Staff Fight Hurricane Florence Floodwaters at CEFS’ Field Research, Education and Outreach Facility

September 18th, 2018|Comments Off on NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Staff Fight Hurricane Florence Floodwaters at CEFS’ Field Research, Education and Outreach Facility

Hurricane Florence is one of the worst storms to hit North Carolina, ever.  CEFS' Field Research, Education, and Outreach Facility at Cherry Research Farm is located in Goldsboro, one of the hardest-hit areas of the state.  NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Research Station Manager Andy Meier and his crew have gone above and beyond -- as they always do in extreme situations -- to protect and care for livestock on the farm and minimize damage to crops and infrastructure.