Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

In beef production, cow-calf phase contributes most greenhouse gases

31.01.2013
Data could help farmers reduce emissions

Scientists have long known that cattle produce carbon dioxide and methane throughout their lives, but a new study pinpoints the cow-calf stage as a major contributor of greenhouse gases during beef production.

In a new paper for the Journal of Animal Science, scientists estimate greenhouse gas emissions from beef cattle during different stages of life. They show that, depending on which production system farmers used, beef production has a carbon footprint ranging from 10.7 to 22.6 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent per kg of hot carcass weight.

According to study co-author Frank Mitloehner, an associate professor in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis, one source of greenhouse gases was surprising.

"If you look at everything that contributes to greenhouse gases through the beef supply chain, then it is the cow-calf that produces the greatest greenhouse gases," Mitloehner said.

In the cow-calf phase, the cow gives birth and nurses the calf until the calf is six to 10 months old. During this time, the cow eats rough plants like hay and grasses. The methane-producing bacteria in the cow's gut thrive on these plants.

"The more roughage is in the diet of the ruminant animal, the more methane is produced by the microbes in the gut of the ruminant, and methane comes out the front end," Mitloehner said.

In feedlots, by contrast, cattle eat mostly corn and grains, which the methane-producing bacteria cannot use as effectively.

Methane is one of the most important greenhouse gases. Methane has a greater capacity to trap heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

The beef industry has been paying close attention to greenhouse gas emissions in recent years.

"We are doing a lot to measure and mitigate our impact," said Chase Adams, director of communications for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

In a 2011 paper for the Journal of Animal Science, researcher Jude Capper showed that the beef industry today uses significantly less water and land than 30 years ago. The industry has also reduced its carbon footprint by 16.3 percent per billion kilograms of beef produced.

According to Mitloehner, beef producers can further reduce their carbon impact by using new technologies like growth promotants. However, consumers are often uncomfortable with these methods, and they choose organic beef or beef with reduced amounts of growth promotants.

"The technologies many consumers are critical of are those that help us receive the greatest environmental gains," Mitloehner said.

The study by Mitloehner and his colleagues is titled "Carbon footprint and ammonia emissions of California beef production systems." It can be read in full at journalofanimalscience.org.

Media contact:

Amy Stewart
American Society of Animal Science
amystewart@ucdavis.edu

Madeline McCurry-Schmidt | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.asas.org

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Compound from hops aids cognitive function in young animals
23.09.2014 | Oregon State University

nachricht Boosting global corn yields depends on improving nutrient balance
17.09.2014 | Purdue University

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

17th European Health Forum Gastein: “Electing Health – The Europe We Want”

23.09.2014 | Event News

Future questions regarding data processing

22.09.2014 | Event News

"Start-ups and spin-offs funding – Public and private policies", 14th October 2014

12.09.2014 | Event News

 
Latest News

Lego-like modular components make building 3-D 'labs-on-a-chip' a snap

23.09.2014 | Interdisciplinary Research

Virtual water: Tracking the unseen water in goods and resources

23.09.2014 | Earth Sciences

Carbonic Acid—And Yet It Exists!

23.09.2014 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>