Improved production efficiency in cattle to reduce their carbon footprint for beef production

Author: M.M. Scholtz, Y. Steyn, E. van Marle-Köster & H.E. Theron
Year: 2012
Issue: 5
Volume: 42
Page: 450 - 453

The FAO publication, Livestock’s Long Shadow, indicated that livestock is responsible for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas production thereby creating the perception that livestock is a major cause of global warming. Methane (CH4) makes up 16% of total world gas emissions and is the second most important greenhouse gas (GHG) after carbon dioxide (CO2). Ruminants are important to mankind since most of the world’s vegetation biomass is rich in fibre and only ruminants can convert this vegetation into high quality protein sources for human consumption. In spite of this important role of livestock, it is singled out as producing large quantities of GHG that contribute to climate change, since enteric fermentation is responsible for 28% of global CH4 emissions.  However, the net effect from livestock is only a 4.5% contribution to GHG. The livestock industry should be aware of the effect of livestock on climate change and therefore it is important that mechanisms are put in place to mitigate this effect. The improvement of production efficiency through increased production per constant unit, crossbreeding and genetic improvement may be a cost effective and permanent way of reducing the carbon footprint of beef cattle.

Keywords: crossbreeding, ethane, feed efficiency, global warming, greenhouse gas, residual feed intake
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