Climate Change: Are Livestock a Problem?

Talk of climate change from greenhouse gases (GHGs) has sparked the idea that livestock are a leading culprit for contributing to increased emissions and thus Americans should completely eliminate meat from their diets. Research supports the statement that animal agriculture does play a role in the level of GHGs. However, credit has not been given where credit is due. Drs. Robin R. White and Mary Beth Hall from Virginia Tech and the USDA analyzed the impact of eliminating animal agriculture from the US. They determined while eliminating animal agriculture would decrease GHGs from agriculture by 28%, the US would simply not be able to support the necessary nutritional requirements on plants alone.  While a plant-based diet may contribute to a decrease in risks of heart disease and obesity, it is deficient of essential micronutrients, such as vitamins D, E, and K, and choline, which we derive from animal-based products. Some say eliminating animal-agriculture would free up food and land resources we could use to produce viable food for ourselves? Not exactly. Livestock graze land not suitable for crop production, and they also have a unique ability to convert human-inedible food and fiber byproducts into human-edible food, pet food, and other products such as fertilizer, germicides, textiles, heart valves and more. There is also the idea that a plant based diet would be very colorful and full of fruits and vegetables. Based on a simulation if we ate no animal products or imports, diets would consist of only 7% vegetables, 6% fruit, 9% other products, and a whopping 78% grains. This is large in part to the limited availability of soils and climates for crop production in the US. We rely on animals to convert micronutrient poor crops, such as grains, into nutrient dense meats, milk, and eggs. So the next time you take a bite of a hamburger or scramble up some eggs for breakfast, remember that the elimination of animal agriculture from the US would have minimal effect on GHG emissions but would have a significant impact on other industries we rely on and create nutrient deficiencies in American diets. ~ Sydney Beidleman, Summarized from 

Talk of climate change from greenhouse gases (GHGs) has sparked the idea that livestock are a leading culprit for contributing to increased emissions and thus Americans should completely eliminate meat from their diets. Research supports the statement that animal agriculture does play a role in the level of GHGs. However, credit has not been given where credit is due. Drs. Robin R. White and Mary Beth Hall from Virginia Tech and the USDA analyzed the impact of eliminating animal agriculture from the US. They determined while eliminating animal agriculture would decrease GHGs from agriculture by 28%, the US would simply not be able to support the necessary nutritional requirements on plants alone.  While a plant-based diet may contribute to a decrease in risks of heart disease and obesity, it is deficient of essential micronutrients, such as vitamins D, E, and K, and choline, which we derive from animal-based products. Some say eliminating animal-agriculture would free up food and land resources we could use to produce viable food for ourselves? Not exactly. Livestock graze land not suitable for crop production, and they also have a unique ability to convert human-inedible food and fiber byproducts into human-edible food, pet food, and other products such as fertilizer, germicides, textiles, heart valves and more. There is also the idea that a plant based diet would be very colorful and full of fruits and vegetables. Based on a simulation if we ate no animal products or imports, diets would consist of only 7% vegetables, 6% fruit, 9% other products, and a whopping 78% grains. This is large in part to the limited availability of soils and climates for crop production in the US. We rely on animals to convert micronutrient poor crops, such as grains, into nutrient dense meats, milk, and eggs. So the next time you take a bite of a hamburger or scramble up some eggs for breakfast, remember that the elimination of animal agriculture from the US would have minimal effect on GHG emissions but would have a significant impact on other industries we rely on and create nutrient deficiencies in American diets. ~ Sydney Beidleman, Summarized from Nutritional and greenhouse gas impacts of removing animals from US agriculture by Robin R. White and Mary Beth Hall. Download the full article here.

 

by Robin R. White and Mary Beth Hall

 

Quote of the Month: In protected hay, feed value will stay

book2Damage caused by weathering of hay is high on many farms, especially in the eastern U.S. It appears that many livestock producers don’t recognize the magnitude of such losses or how much they costs. In many cases, it would cost relatively little to reduce or even virtually eliminate weathering damage. Once dry hay is stored in a barn, or othersise well protected from the elements (even just covered well and placed on something such as old tires, shipping pallets or railroad ties), feeding value decreases little over time. Order your copy of Forage-Livestock Quote and Concepts, vol. 2, here.

 

Kentucky Alfalfa Conference

Join us on February 20th in Elizabethtown for the 39th annual Kentucky Alfalfa and Stored Forage Conference. Topics include: Don’t let insects eat your alfalfa profit, fertilizing profitable high yield alfalfa, getting the upper hand on diseases of alfalfa and grasses and advances in hay mechanization. Full program and registration link will be posted on the UK Forage Extension page, forages.ca.uky.edu/events soon.

Forage Timely Tips: November

  • Apply 30-40 lb N/A to strengthen cool-season grass sods through increasing tillering and root growth
  • If not already done, inventory hay and assess hay quality.
  • Adjust animal numbers or purchase additional hay to balance forage-feed supply to livestock needs.
  • Graze winter annuals that will not overwinter such as turnips and oats.
  • Graze other winter annuals once they are 6-8 inches tall and are well anchored.  Do NOT graze closer to 4 inches.
  • Sugar content will rise in tall fescue with the cool temperatures and short days of fall. Alkaloid content of tall fescue can be high in some years, but will decline after a hard freeze.
  • Talk with local conservationist about developing a grazing plan and cost-share opportunities.

 

Get the Most from Grazing Cornstalks

Corn harvest is ongoing in many parts of the country and cows are starting to graze the stalks.  How should this grazing be managed to get the most out of them?

One of the most important decisions in all grazing situations is stocking rate, including corn stalks.  Fortunately, you can get a good estimate for corn stalks by dividing the corn grain yield by 3.5 to estimate grazing days per acre for a 1,200-pound cow.

So, for a field that yielded 210 bushels per acre, dividing 210 by 3.5 gives 60 grazing days per acre.  Thus, a 160-acre field could provide 9,600 cow grazing days.

One possibility is to graze 60 cows for 160 days.  Starting here at the end of October, that could take you all the way through March.  Sounds pretty good but how will this work nutritionally?  Cows will eat the best feed first, any downed grain and the husks.  After a couple months, all that will be left are stalks and leaves that have been walked over, rained or snowed upon.  Without a lot of supplements, these cows will be in very poor shape by the end of March.

Clearly, shorter grazing periods are needed.  Maybe, instead of 60 cows for 160 days you graze 160 cows for 60 days.  Better, but you still may need supplements near the end of the 60 days.  Better still would be to give those 160 cows just one week’s worth of the stalks to start, a little over 18 acres.  By day 6 and 7 those 160 cows will have cleaned up just about everything, but on day 8 you give them a fresh 18 acres, returning them to high quality feed without so much supplement.

Both stocking rate and changes in the quality of grazing with time need consideration as you plan and manage stalk grazing.  Do it right and corn stalks become a great winter feed resource. ~ Bruce Anderson, MyCentralNebraska.com

 

Wendell Berry Center hosts First Grazing School

JeffJeff Lehmkuhler (left), UK Beef Specialist leads the participants in the Wendell Berry Farming Program Grazing School in the discussion of their field exercise. The school, adapted from the long standing Kentucky Grazing School was in partnership with the Wendell Berry Farming Program and was led by UK Extension specialists in the UK College of Agriculture Food and Environment and the USDA NRCS. ~ Photo: Dr. Jimmy Henning