So the theme that we are going to be looking at here at FCCT this month (while hopefully the sun will continue to shine down gloriously!) is GHG emissions from livestock production systems. This subject has lots of controversy surrounding it, from ex Beatles members encouraging everyone to eat less meat and save the world, to the levy bodies doing some research into economic benefits to be had from reducing emissions from dairy, beef and sheep production. During the month we will be exploring some of these areas in detail and looking at what we can do on-farm to help reduce costs and at the same time improve sustainability and reduce emissions.
So to kick the month off (although will try and stay away from the football puns due to the amazing results from Brazil), here are some stats on livestock’s contribution to emissions to get our teeth into. These initial statistics come from the FAO’s report Tackling Climate Change through livestock which can be downloaded here if you are interested.
The contribution to global emissions of livestock
Emissions from livestock are estimated to be 7.1 gigatonnes of CO₂e per year. This represents 14.5% of human induced GHG emissions.
Below this is broken down into the different sources.
Sources of emissions
If this is broken down it equates to:
Feed processing and production (45% of total)
Enteric fermentation of ruminants (39%).
Manure storage and processing (10%)
The remainder is attributable to processing and transportation of animal products.
However its not all bad news. There is massive potential to improve the sector’s environmental performance. The wider adoption of best practices and technologies in feeding, health, husbandry, and manure management could help global livestock sector be more efficient, reduce energy and waste and cut emissions.
The link between efficiency and emissions reduction
There is a direct link between GHG emissions intensities and the efficiency with which producers use natural resources. For livestock production systems nitrous oxide, methane and carbon dioxide emissions effectively represent losses of Nitrogen, energy and organic matter that have an effect on productivity and efficiencies.
This topic of improving efficiency and reducing emissions has been the subject of lots of research and study over the last few years. A couple of things to think about in terms of the effect of reducing emissions on productivity (courtesy of EBLEX) are:
For Sheep – Every 1kg of CO₂ reduction / kg of liveweight equates to an extra 28p/kg increase in gross margin.
For beef cattle – every 5kg of CO₂ reduction / kg of liveweight equates to a 50p/kg increase in gross margin.
With dairy production systems, efficiency and emissions reductions are possible through concentrating on managing feed, manure, fertility, fertiliser and energy use. These will all be looked at throughout the month.
For more information, why not look at our Toolkit section on Livestock?