The Carbon Issue
Don’t get caught napping

How much do you know about carbon sequestering and the part you play in the whole process as beef producers?

Sorry to jump right into a serious topic – but we will be caught napping if we don’t educate ourselves about the carbon issue. The USA are dealing with “NO MEAT” days pushed by minority groups and State Senators claiming livestock cause climate change.

Ask any young person going to university in Australia (or just any young person) and they will tell you the talk is that cattle are a major cause of climate change. These same people feel the need to do their bit for the environment, so……vegetarianism is definitely on the rise and a handy solution.
Have you noticed how many vegan options you have on menus these days?
It is conveniently forgotten or pushed to one side that the whole of the human population contribute to this problem.  As cattle producers we need to be able to discuss sensibly and explain about sequestration (a simple science that the average person doesn’t understand) and not walk away without defending ourselves when this topic is raised.
Fake meat is a real thing and a big threat to our industry and millions of dollars are being invested into it’s development.

Livestock are more and more frequently sited as the cause of rising greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere.  It certainly leaves me searching for a way to point out to a growing opposition, that raising animals for meat and dairy only acccounts for 5% of global carbon dioxide emissions.  In the meantime, while we grapple with how to fight for our industry there is a booming “Vegan and Vegetarian” industry rallying to abolish all meats and dairy from our diets to “save the planet”.
About 40% of the ice free land on earth is considered grazing land, which sequesters about 30% of our Earth’s carbon.

Get informed! It’s easy…

There are loads of great articles to read on how we can make a difference and take the heat off our industry so get reading and make sure you talk up when you hear that cattle are the main reason for Climate Change.

I have searched for simple graphics to show the carbon cycle.  I haven’t found one that has an aeroplane, car, truck or train.  They do always have factory emissions and fossil fuels though. And of course a cow!
I think everyone found it interesting (even the climate change scientists) that the total carbon emissions dropped during covid when most transport (air and land) was halted.  Did our cattle change their daily habits?
We have to be more vocal about the good we are doing when we sequester carbon using regenerative farming techniques.  Yes, there is a name now for good farming practices so go with it.  
Read Lorraine Gordon’s article and anything you can get your hands on about rotating your cattle and planting cover crops and resting your grasses and building hummus and soil carbon.
We need to upgrade our practices and we, personally, certainly have benefitted from cover cropping and better rotation.

Carbon Footprint
Grass verses Grain-finished Beef

The argument is still raging and I have found loads of information on this topic but it seems to be inconclusive.

The pros for Grain finished
Earlier time to finishing
Less land area needed/less clearing of land
The Cons
Land needs to be cleared for farming of grains.
Higher use of chemicals
Higher use of fossil fuels for planting, harvest, processing and transport

The pros for Grass finished
Higher nutritional and animal welfare credentials
Rotational grazing on perennial grasses is known to sequester carbon
Rotational grazing enhances soil health more than cropping
Reducing pesticide and fertilizer inputs
Less Fossil fuels
The Cons
They take longer to finish and therefore emissions are higher
Overgrazing can release carbon stored in soils.

One thing I do know is that in the finishing of cattle – and this is the only phase that is in question here – the more efficient and early maturing the animal is and it’s ability to convert the grass or grain, the better the emissions tally.
Feedlots will be looking to finish cattle earlier on feed to keep under the emissions radar – so you would imagine they will be looking to source more efficient, easy doing types.  The time it is taking for cattle to express marbling may inhibit efforts to reduce emissions and we therefore we may see a tradeoff.  Feeders may choose to keep some long feeding but the majority will be early turnoff to comply with emissions targets our industry leaders are setting.
Customers are asking (more frequently) for grass fed thinking they are helping the planet so this will fuel the grass finished market.
We must acknowledge the complexity at hand, but the benefits to the soil are important to take into account. Livestock are partly to blame for a lot of ecological problems we’ve got. But we couldn’t repair these problems without livestock.
Anyway, the science seems to be inconclusive as far as I can see as it depends on what you want the outcome to be…  A bit like your budget. 🙂

 

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