A Facebook friend recently shared an article and questioned whether the study – and suggestions – cited by the author had any merit. It all sounded good – feeding cattle grass instead of grain would cut CO2 emissions and therefore help battle climate change.
But pull back the layers and you will see a questionable reporting source and misguided responsibility for the emissions. Thankfully, Facebook allows comments and some very knowledgeable and responsible livestock producers weighed in on the post, correcting the facts and explaining why grain feeding is more efficient and environmentally friendly method.
Here is a link to the article: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/09/26/2686331/livestock-emissions-30-percent-cut/
And here are a several of the comments defending American feeding practices. I don’t think I can say it any better than these gentleman did. Please note the insightful comment from my mostly quiet but always intelligent hubby, Derek. He usually leaves the farm talking to me but occasionally chimes in to explain what he does.
Brett Moline Most of those things farmers and ranchers are already doing. Animal selection for the most efficient, matching feed type and amount to what the animal needs, keeping animals healthy, these things are what farmers and ranchers have been doing for generations. As far as the new plants, some might have to be modified to live in our Wyoming climate i.e. GMO’s
David Miller Be very cautious of generalizing any data from an UN FAO report to the US cattle industry. Apples & oranges comparisons. Most of the emissions from the world’s cattle herd is due to emissions associated with “maintenance” of the animal and the typical “feeding time” for cattle in the developing world approaches 5 years. The typical US beef cow is already raised on quality forage and reaches market weight in 20 months. The rapid rate of gain and the significant reduction in the number of days to reach market weight is why US feedlot based beef production has significantly less emissions per cow and emissions per pound of beef than does grass-fed beef.
Derek Sawyer I agree with the other guys. We strive everyday to be more efficient than we were the day before- we have to to stay in business. What many people don’t understand is that improving efficiency does not always correlate with reducing inputs. In the case of feeding cattle, the intense feeding lowers the number of days an animal just eats to “maintain”. The last of my calf crop born in 2013 will be sitting in a restaurant next week- averaged 1400# in less than 15 months.
This study doesn’t suggest anything that cattlemen in this country aren’t doing everyday. Converting foodstuffs into pounds of beef and doing it in the most efficient way is the keystone to this business. This industry amounts to Billions and Billions of dollars each year in this country. IF there was evidence of a way to feed cattle with less feed (and do it without affecting the safety of animal or meat) somebody would have it on the market ASAP. It would not have been passed up for 45 years! Besides that, in the 1970’s, I believe it took 9+ pounds of feed (dry matter) for the animal to grow 1 actual pound. Out of my 700 head I fed this spring, they all converted less than 5.8 pounds of feed (dry matter) for the pound they gained. We accomplish this by genetic selection, studying feed ingredients and the ration the cattle eat, use nutritionists and veterinarians to keep the cattle in top health, and keep the cattle in a manner that reduces as much stress on the animal as possible. I say all this understanding many people will first think “factory farm”, but in this case- #1 raising pounds of meat responsibly and #2 providing a living for my wife and young son both correlate with how efficiently I perform my profession.