Greenhouse Gases Animal Agriculture conference 2010

GGAA 2010

The Greenhouse Gases and Animal Agriculture conference – Oct. 3 to Oct. 8, 2010 – is a showcase of some of top science, people and progress in this area from around the globe. While the conference participants are drawn primarily from the scientific community, the information presented has strong relevance for producers, industry and policy developers involved with animal agriculture.

Dr. Chris Grainger on mitigation strategies

Q: What is the potential of dietary and farm management strategies?

A: Mitigation strategies need to be effective without lowering animal production. We have identified that there are dietary and farm management strategies that can be used right now that will reduce methane emissions without lowering animal production. It is important to ensure that there are no financial costs of adopting these strategies.

Adding lipids to the diets through oil or oilseeds is the most promising dietary strategy and our review has shown that a wide range of oils can be used to achieve a persistent reduction in emissions. Farm management strategies that maintain production while decreasing intake will result in more efficient systems of production and reduce methane emissions (because of the reduction in intake). These are other strategies such as improving genetic merit of livestock and improving herd fertility.

Research groups around the world are now well placed to make progress in reducing greenhouse gases from livestock and a lot of progress has already been made in identifying mitigation strategies. In addition, the techniques for assessing mitigation strategies are now much improved and this will result in faster research progress than was possible 10 to 15 years ago.

World picture: Numbers tell the story

Dr. Frank O'Mara, a researcher with Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority, provided some telling rankings and figures in his talk on the role of livestock in greenhouse gas emissions.

Among key areas of the world, Asia is the source of most enteric methane emissions, while Latin America, Africa, Western Europe and North America are also significant sources, he says. "These emissions are dominated by emissions from the cattle herd."

When total enteric emissions are compared to food production, to provide context for measuring efficiency, the four most efficient regions are Eastern and Western Europe, North America, and the non-EU former Soviet Union. O'Mara says one key assessment observed these regions together produced 46.1 percent of the world's ruminant meat and milk energy and only 25.5 percent of enteric methane emissions.

In comparison, the three least efficient producers – Asia, Africa and Latin America – produced an equivalent amount, 47.3 percent, of ruminant meat and milk energy and almost three times, 69 percent, as much enteric methane emissions.

Turning to greenhouse gas emissions from manure management, O'Mara observed that Asia, particularly China, Western Europe and North America are the regions with the greatest emissions.

 According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, over half of the total methane emissions from this source come from monogastrics, with pigs by far the dominant species. FAO does not give a separate estimate of nitrous oxide emissions from manure management.

Dr. Henry Janzen on the new role of livestock

Q: You have assessed the place of livestock on a "re-greening" earth. What is the gist of your perspective?

Humans and their livestock are intertwined to such an extent that their symbiosis will not likely soon be severed. Livestock offer many benefits to human society and they can help sustain the ecosystems of which they are a part. But that should not deter us from seeking even better ways of using livestock to steward the land on which we all depend.

In coming decades, researchers, in concert with practitioners and policymakers, will need to show creativity, imagination and courage to envision new ways of melding animals into our ecosystems, not only to minimize harm, but to advance their re-greening.


Monica Wadsworth

Monica Wadsworth
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