Greenhouse gases (GHG) are gases of natural origin or released by human activities that insulate the earth's atmosphere. They contribute to global warming and climate change. The main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N20) and methane (CH4). Agriculture accounts for approximately 10% of the total emissions and produces less GHG than several other sectors, such as transportation and industry. However, agricultural activities remain an appreciable source of GHG, and possibilities to reduce them exist. Furthermore, several on-farm GHG emission reduction methods also improve farm efficiency (feed efficiency, improved manure and grazing management, reduced tillage), while contributing to sustainable development of agriculture.
Cattle producers participate in the reduction of GHG emissions by sound grassland and grazing management and rigorous feed management. Consult the fact sheets on GHG emission reduction by grassland and grazing management and GHG emission reduction by cattle feed management to discover how producers accomplish this. To learn how it is possible to reduce on-farm emissions by simple, concrete practices, see the success stories of producers who compared their former agricultural practices with the new ones and realized that they could reduce their GHG emissions.
Did you know?
- Feed digestibility is the most crucial factor in the quantity of ruminal methane produced by beef cattle. The more digestible the feed, the lower the quantity of methane emitted per pound of feed eaten.
- Reducing the period spent in wintering pens by extending the grazing season (strip grazing, stockpile grazing), can reduce the potential greenhouse gas emissions associated with manure accumulation and can also reduce fuel costs and GHG emissions during manure transportation and spreading.
- Perennial forage soils and grazing can store considerable quantities of carbon. Increasing the organic content of grazing soils by planning free grazing and good pasture management also improve grazing productivity.
- The incorporation of a legume into grazing or forage fields can increase forage digestibility and productivity, thus reducing GHG emission by grazing cattle. The nitrogen fixing capacity of legumes can reduce the application of nitrogen and consequently costs, in addition to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with fertilizers.
- Healthy riparian strips can sequester or store substantial quantities of carbon in the soil.Windbreak trees can remove considerable quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the tree and its roots for many years.
- The addition of edible oilseeds to feed rations, such as sunflower or canola, can alter the ruminal environment and reduce cattle emissions by 10 to 24 percent.