Innovative Approaches for Climate Smart Livestock Practices

Climate smart and sustainable agricultural practices have been widely discussed at the country level. We have also initiated steps towards enhancing farmer knowledge about climate smart agricultural practices. However the discussion for livestock is relatively limited as yet, though livestock is a strong contributor to climate change. With this article we plan to initiate a discussion on climate smart livestock practices based on innovate best practices from across the globe. To lay the grounds for the discussion, we first present an overview of the livestock and climate change issues. The current article is reproduced from a report by UNFAO linking livestock and climate change .
Climate change is transforming the planet’s ecosystems and threatening the well-being of current and future generations. To “hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius” and avoid dangerous climate change, deep cuts in global emissions are urgently required.
The global livestock sector contributes a significant share to anthropogenic GHG emissions. With emissions estimated at 7.1 gigatonnes CO2-eq per annum, representing 14.5 per- cent of human-induced GHG emissions, the livestock sector plays an important role in climate change. Beef and cattle milk production account for the majority of emissions, respectively contributing 41 and 20 percent of the sector’s emissions. While pig meat and poultry meat and eggs contribute respectively 9 percent and 8 percent to the sector’s emissions. The strong projected growth of this production will result in higher emission shares and volumes over time.
Technologies and practices that help reduce emissions exist but are not widely used. Their adoption and use by the bulk of the world’s producers can result in significant reductions in emissions. A 30 percent reduction of GHG emissions would be possible, for example, if producers in a given system, region and climate adopted the technologies and practice currently used by the 10 percent of producers with the lowest emission intensity.
There is a direct link between GHG emission intensities and the efficiency with which producers use natural resources. For livestock production systems, nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the three main GHG emitted by the sector, are losses of nitrogen (N), energy and organic matter that undermine efficiency and productivity.
Possible interventions to reduce emissions are thus, to a large extent, based on technologies and practices that improve production efficiency at animal and herd levels. They include the use of better quality feed and feed balancing to lower enteric and manure emissions. Improved breeding and animal health help to shrink the herd overhead (i.e. unproductive part of the herd) and related emissions.
Manure management practices that ensure the recovery and recycling of nutrients and energy contained in manure and improvements in energy use efficiency along supply chains can further contribute to mitigation. Sourcing low emission intensity inputs (feed and energy in particular) is a further option.
Most mitigation interventions can provide both environmental and economic benefits. Practices and technologies that reduce emissions can often simultaneously increase productivity, thereby contributing to food security and economic development. Concerted and collective action from all sector stakeholders is urgently required to ensure that existing and promising mitigation strategies are implemented. The need to reduce the sector’s emissions and its environmental footprint has indeed become ever more pressing in view of its continuing expansion to ensure food security and feed a growing, richer and more urbanized world population.
Reproduced from “Tackling Climate Change from Livestock: A Global Assessment of Emissions and Mitigation Opportunities, published by UNFAO, Rome, 2013.

by Dr. Meeta Punjabi Mehta & Dr. Ankaj Sharma, Creative Agri Solutions