U.N. says animal handling key to cutting emissions on the farm

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UN A U.N. report measuring the livestock industry’s contribution to global warming says emissions can be reduced with practices already utilized by the most efficient operators.

The U.N. says its report, Tackling climate change through livestock: A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities,” is the most comprehensive estimate on the topic to date.

The report claims 14.5 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions stem from livestock supply chains, with feed production and processing, outputs of GHG during digestion by cows, and manure decomposition listed as the primary contributors.

The study shows improvements to the industry can cut its greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 30 percent.

That percentage can be reduced through technologies in feeding, manure and health and husbandry management in addition to the best animal handling practices.

Changes to the system require solutions from all stakeholders, bringing together the private and public sector, civil society research and academia and international organizations.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), established the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development and identified three priorities for improvement: promoting more efficient practices, improved grassland management and better manure management.

Improved practices wouldn’t require livestock operators to change production systems, but increased demand for livestock products, especially in developing countries, will require some updates and modifications to offset increases in overall emissions.

Changes to the system not only benefit the environment, but livestock producers as well. The U.N. claims many of the recommendations for improving efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions also boost production, providing people with more food and higher incomes, with benefits for food security and poverty reduction.

One under-utilized technology named is higher production from biogas generators and energy-saving devices.

“These new findings show that the potential to improve the sector’s environmental performance is significant – and that realizing that potential is indeed do-able,” said Ren Wang, FAO Assistant Director-General for Agriculture and Consumer Protection.

Read the report.

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new york  |  September, 26, 2013 at 08:51 PM

I know let's just end all agricultural practices that should really help ;)

September, 27, 2013 at 01:54 PM

The most under-used and most helpful agricultural technology to naturally balance methane, among other problems, is electric fence, either conventional or solar-powered. Since the introduction of electric fencing management-intensive grazing, including short duration, high stock density, and long rest periods, has managed all kinds of imbalances, including greenhouse gas production. With relatively little investment, a farmer can control grazing, let natural microbes take care of methane, vastly improve soil fertility and permeability, reduce flooding and runoff, protect the soil surface from drying out during drought, and encourage more palatable species of forages on his land. The carbon footprint of a well-managed conception to consumer all-forage-fed pastured beef production enterprise is very, very small indeed. The good that all-grassfed meats can do to improve human health and provide high-quality nutrition through its CLA content alone is equally as great as its environmental benefit.

MT  |  September, 27, 2013 at 08:59 AM

Hey, where's the recommendation for changes in "animal handling" that will transform us livestock producers from wasteful savages into saviors of the planet? All those somber paragraphs reciting the same old unproven anti-livestock platitudes and not one word, not one syllable addressing the revolutionizing animal handling techniques promised in the title. The UN does crappy science...when they do any at all. Mostly they are an assembly of handwringing old women at the brink of senility. The United Nations was a wonderful feel-good idea back in the day but after half a century we now understand just how universally useless the UN is...and now nothing more than a clearing house for malicious urban myths.

Leland Schroeder    
Texas  |  September, 27, 2013 at 09:45 AM

What about waste from chicken litter. We have many in out state and when it is spread on the land the of oder us noted for miles not withstanding adverse effect to the animals when eating the grass.

Craigt A. Moore    
Billings, MT  |  September, 27, 2013 at 10:55 AM

I hope to see them do a report soon on how the raising of rice increases the release of methane gas, just like raising livestock, and how that practice should be curtailed because it is causing climate change. They don't have to raise a grain just because that is what they like over there in the far east. They need to come up with new grains and ways of raising them to reduce their methane gas production. Right?

Craig A. Moore    
Billings, MT  |  September, 27, 2013 at 11:27 AM

I hope to see their report soon on the effects of raising rice is having on the environment. The methane released from rice paddies contributes about 20% of the methane produced globally. They need to pick a grain that is more environmentally friendly to raise and eat. Just because they like rice in the far east means they should change the global climate just because they want to eat what they like. Right?

September, 27, 2013 at 01:38 PM

Wes Jackson in Kansas has made a career of developing perennial wheat. www.landinstitute.org/‎

Kansas  |  September, 27, 2013 at 03:58 PM

People with Gluten gut (me) seem to make a lot of gas, we can't eat grains but love our beef. Subject, the UN, shut it down and that would reduce the methane by 50%, (BS).

Kansas  |  September, 27, 2013 at 03:58 PM

People with Gluten gut (me) seem to make a lot of gas, we can't eat grains but love our beef. Subject, the UN, shut it down and that would reduce the methane by 50%, (BS).

kansas  |  September, 27, 2013 at 04:14 PM

We people with Celiac can not eat grains (gluten) but love our beef and the UN wants to control the world and the people, so if they would shoot us (1 n 33) that's 0.33% right there because WE do have a lot of methane, so 30%, 20% and 0.33% that's 50.0.33% get rid of the UN and its BS and there you have it 100%.

Tallahassee, FL  |  September, 28, 2013 at 06:00 AM

Actually if measured you would find that the UN actually emits more greenhouse gases belaboring issues it has no control over rather than doing its appointed job.

Mo  |  September, 28, 2013 at 07:38 AM

First off, the UN can mind their own nations business. We don't need some of these 3rd dictators telling us what to do. Second, we know that jet travel is responsible for the release of major pollution at high altitude. There are no pollution controls on jet airplanes and when one considers that the average mid sized jet burns about 5000 lbs of jet fuel per hour, do the math and ask why they don't address their own massive carbon foot print? Most of these hypocrites produce more pollution in a single trip than 9 tents of the people on the planet produce in a year. Simply put, stay on your turf, stop wasting energy since you arent producing anything, and stay out of our business.

Mo  |  September, 28, 2013 at 07:42 AM

Please disregard the typos. Tents should be 9/10s of the people on the planet.

Florida  |  September, 28, 2013 at 02:43 PM

They are going to have farmers install "Gas collection devices" on all livestock to safely collect the methane while they are out grazing in the field (along with "Manure collection traps") and the gases can be compressed and used to fuel a generator for your electric farm tractor.

September, 29, 2013 at 01:41 PM

If they would harness vegan farts it would supply more than enough gas to light up Seattle.

Ohio  |  October, 15, 2013 at 10:53 AM

Steve, I totally agree with you on the UN providing a forum for 3rd world dictators but I disagrees on your jet engine pollution comments. There are very stringent pollution limits on aircraft engine emissions at high altitude and all other altitudes. Limits on CO, Co2, NOX, particle (unburned hydrocarbons) etc. that engine companies spend millions or even billions on research to meet. You will be pleased to know that travelling by plane causes less than one percent emission than by automobile (even hybrid). Otherwise I agree on the useless UN.

Thomas Howard    
Southwest Pa.  |  February, 22, 2014 at 12:54 PM

Gluten sensitive and eat "grain". Just not wheat, rye, barley, triticale and some oats. Rice, corn, buckwheat, and more are fine.

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