Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ag's Carbon Footprint Getting Lighter and Lighter

Carbon footprint of cattle shrinks with productivity
By Drovers news source Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Discussion of the environmental impact of animal agriculture is very different when you talk in terms of productivity instead of individual animals, according to one of the newest members of the Washington State University Department of Animal Sciences.

“You can’t just talk about ‘the cow,’” said Jude Capper, assistant professor of animal science. “We have to think about it on an output basis, whether it’s milk, beef, pork or poultry. From 1944 to 2007, the carbon footprint of the cow has doubled, but during that same time period, the carbon footprint per gallon of milk has decreased by more than two-thirds.”

Capper said milk production has grown from approximately 5,000 pounds per cow in 1944, when there were approximately 25.6 million dairy cows in the United States, to approximately 20,000 pounds per cow in 2007, when there were just 9.2 million dairy cows in the nation.

She attributes this increased sufficiency to advances in nutrition, genetics and management that allow cows to perform to their fullest potential. For example, rbST, a protein hormone that increases milk production allows enough milk to be produced to fulfill demand using fewer cows.

That reduction in animals alone has had a huge environmental benefit, Capper said, especially in terms of reducing methane and carbon dioxide emissions associated with global climate change.

“For example, if we produce 10 billion pounds of milk from cows given rbST, it’s like taking 112,000 cars off the road or planting 83.5 million trees,” she said. “The bottom line is if we improve productivity, we reduce our carbon footprint per gallon of milk.” Read More

As with many topics these days, the family farmer has become the favorite target of the global warming crowd. They continually cite a UN study which clearly does not represent how small the impact US agriculture makes. Nor do they show how much agriculture has lessened their impact over the last several decades. So even though it maybe easy for some folks to claim that agriculture is a big polluter, remember this, agriculture is the single biggest source of food and fiber in the world. If you can do without either of these then by all means continue trying to force it off this planet.

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