This webinar introduces current and future industry-based initiatives for environmental sustainability in the livestock and poultry sector, and how Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Community learners can play a critical role in their region. This presentation was originally broadcast on September 17, 2021. Continue reading “Industry Initiatives for Environmental Sustainability – a Role for Everyone”
Why Look at the Environmental Footprint of Livestock?
Both producers and consumers of animal products have concern for the environmental sustainability of production systems. Added to these concerns is the need to increase production to meet the demand of a growing population worldwide with an increasing desire for high quality protein. A procedure has been developed (Rotz et al., 2013) that is now being implemented by the U.S. beef industry in a comprehensive national assessment of the sustainability of beef. The first of seven regions to be analyzed consisted of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
What did we do?
A survey and visits of ranch and feedyard operations throughout the three state region provided data on common production practices. From these data, representative ranch and feedyard operations were defined and simulated for the climate and soil conditions throughout the region using the Integrated Farm System Model (USDA-ARS, 2014). These simulations predicted environmental impacts of each operation including farm-gate carbon, energy, water and reactive nitrogen footprints. Individual ranch and feedyard operations were linked to form 28 representative cattle production systems. A weighted average of the production systems was used to determine the environmental footprints for the region where weighting factors were determined based upon animal numbers obtained from national agricultural statistics and survey data. Along with the traditional beef production systems, Holstein steers and cull animals from the dairy industry in the region were a lso included.
What have we learned?
The carbon footprint of beef produced was 18.4 ± 1.7 kg CO2e/kg carcass weight (CW) with the range in individual production systems being 13.0 to 25.4 kg CO2e/kg CW. Footprints for fossil energy use, non precipitation water use, and reactive nitrogen loss were 51 ± 4.8 MJ/kg CW, 2450 ± 450 liters/kg CW and 138 ± 12 g N/kg CW, respectively. The major portion of the carbon, energy and reactive nitrogen footprints was associated with the cow-calf phase of production (Figure 1).
Further analyses are planned for the remaining six regions of the U.S. which will be combined to provide a national assessment. Cattle production data will be combined with processing, marketing and consumer data to complete a comprehensive life cycle assessment of beef production and use.
C. Alan Rotz, Agricultural Engineer, USDA-ARS firstname.lastname@example.org
Senorpe Asem-Hiablie and Kim Stackhouse-Lawson
Rotz, C. A., B. J. Isenberg, K. R. Stackhouse-Lawson, and J. Pollak. 2013. A simulation-based approach for evaluating and comparing the environmental footprints of beef production systems. J. Anim. Sci. 91:5427-5437.
USDA-ARS. 2014. Integrated Farm System Model. Pasture Systems and Watershed Mgt. Res. Unit, University Park, PA. Available at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/Main/docs.htm?docid=8519. Accessed 5 January, 2015.
This work was partially supported by the Beef Checkoff.
The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2015. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Seattle, WA. March 31-April 3, 2015. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.
Why Study the Environmental Footprint of Beef?
As a major contributor in food production, beef production provides a major service to our economy that must be maintained. Production of cattle and the associated feed crops required also impact our environment, and this impact is not well understood. Several studies have determined the carbon footprint of beef, but there are other environmental impacts that must be considered such as fossil energy use, water use, and reactive nitrogen loss to the environment. Because of the large amount of data available to support model evaluation, production systems of the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center were simulated with the Integrated Farm System Model for the purpose of evaluating the environmental impact of the beef cattle produced.
What Did We Do?
The environmental footprints of beef produced at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) in Clay Center, Nebraska were determined with the objective of quantifying improvements achieved over the past 40 years. Relevant information for MARC operations was used to establish parameters representing their production system with the Integrated Farm System Model. The MARC farm, cow calf and feedlot operations were each simulated over recent historical weather to evaluate performance, environmental impact and economics. The current farm operation included 2,078 acres of alfalfa and 2,865 acres of corn to produce feed predominately for the beef herd of 5,500 cows, 1200 replacement heifers and 3,724 cattle finished per year. Spring and fall cow calf herds were fed on 24,000 acres of pastureland supplemented through the winter with hay and silage produced by the farm operation. Feedlot cattle were backgrounded 3 mo on hay and silage and finished over 7 mo on a diet high in corn grain and wet distiller’s grain.
What Have We Learned?
Model simulated predictions for weather year 2011 were within 1% of actual records for feed production and use, energy use, and production costs. A 25-year simulation of their current production system gave a carbon footprint of 10.9 lb of CO2 equivalent units per lb body weight (BW) sold, and the energy required to produce that beef was 11,400 Btu/lb BW. The total water required was 2,560 gallon/lb BW sold, and the water footprint excluding that obtained through precipitation was 335 gallon/lb BW. Reactive N loss was 0.09 lb/lb BW, and the simulated total cost of producing their beef was $0.96/lb BW sold. Simulation of the production practices of 2005 indicate that the use of distiller’s grain in animal diets has had a small impact on environmental footprints except that reactive N loss has increased 10%. Compared to 1970, the carbon footprint of beef produced has decreased 6% with no change in the energy footprint, a 3% reduction in the reactive N footprint, and a 6% reduction in the real cost of production. The water footprint, excluding precipitation, has increased 42% due to greater use of irrigated corn production.
Now that the modeling approach has been shown to appropriately represent beef production systems, further simulation analyses are planned to evaluate beef production systems on a regional and national scale.
C. Alan Rotz, Agricultural Engineer, Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit, USDA/ARS email@example.com
B.J. Isenberg, Research Assistant, The Pennsylvania State University
K.R. Stackhouse-Lawson, Director of Sustainability Research, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
E.J. Pollak, Director, Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, USDA / ARS
C. Alan Rotz, firstname.lastname@example.org
Funded in part by The Beef Checkoff and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service
The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2013. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Denver, CO. April 1-5, 2013. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.