Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Emissions

November 2016

Part 1 – Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Beef Cattle Production*

The news has been good for Canadian beef producers in the Prairies with the release of a study over a 30-year period indicating that production of one kilogram of beef creates 15% fewer greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. This reduction in emissions was mainly achieved as a result of increased production efficiency.

  • Thirty years of improvement for Canadian beef production + This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The agricultural sector still has a role to play in helping reduce GHG emissions. Agricultural GHGs are produced by livestock, manure and agricultural soils. Of all the emissions, enteric methane (CH4) produced by livestock has been identified as the largest contributor. Enteric methane is produced by microorganisms present in the rumen of ruminants as a by-product of fermentation of plant fiber.

Scientists theorized that changing the environment of the rumen can reduce enteric methane emissions either by directly inhibiting microorganisms producing methane or by favouring alternative chemical reactions. To that effect, feed additives have been examined as a way to permanently reducing enteric methane emissions.

  • Dietary supplementation of 3-nitrooxypropanol to cattle + This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Encapsulated nitrate decreases enteric methane emissions + This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Different strains of Propionibacterium did not lower methane emissions + This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Feeding dried distillers’ grains has mixed results on GHGs + This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

While feed additives have the potential to efficiently reduce methane production in the rumen, their administration is less practical for grazing cattle. Yet, forage based-systems offer other environmental benefits and can offset cattle methane emissions by preserving or enhancing soil carbon reserves and reduce other GHG emissions through good manure and fertilizer management. Grasslands and pastures can also provide ecological benefits by preserving biodiversity and wildlife habitat, and improving water quality and soil health.

  • Forage systems in ruminant production to reduce methane emissions + This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Production efficiency of swath grazing + This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Grazed grasslands are a source of GHG emissions + This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Feeding strategies affect enteric methane for cow calf production + This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

These studies emphasize the need to look at livestock production using a holistic approach. This perspective considers methane emissions as well as the reduction of other GHGs and the provision of other ecological benefits when looking at the agricultural sector’s role in reducing GHG emissions.

  • Canadian farm-level soil carbon assessment + This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Approach to estimate and reduce environmental impact from farms + This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Farm-based life cycle assessment of beef production in Western Canada + This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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* This Special Issue is the first part of a series pertaining to Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Note: The articles presented here are a selection of articles authored by AAFC scientists in the Prairie Region and do not constitute a comprehensive list of all the work done on GHGs by our scientists. Please visit AAFC online to see more publications on this subject.

Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada