The feed conversion rate is one of the most important determinants of the water footprint (WF) of beef and is known to vary between different cattle breeds. The objective of this study was to estimate the WF of industrially finished calves of seven different cattle breeds on two different feeding regimes: normal pre-determined feeding period (NPFP) and profit-maximising feeding period (PMFP). Data were collected by finishing 35 calves of each of the seven breeds in a feedlot. Green, blue and grey WFs were estimated for the different feeding regimes, and a feedlot simulation provided the effect of the different feeding regimes on the water footprint, financial margin and the water footprint per rand of margin. The results indicated that the water footprint differed notably between breeds on the same feeding regime, as well as between the feeding regimes. While the PMFP had a 1% higher water footprint per year in a typical feedlot than the NPFP, the financial margin was 33% more, resulting in a 24% decrease in the water footprint per South African rand of margin. The contributions of green, blue and grey water to the total WF were 91.5%, 2.5% and 6%, respectively, irrespective of breed or feeding regime.
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