Main content area

Carbon footprint in different beef production systems on a southern Brazilian farm: a case study

Ruviaro, Clandio F., de Léis, Cristiane Maria, Lampert, Vinícius do N., Barcellos, Júlio Otávio Jardim, Dewes, Homero
Journal of cleaner production 2015 v.96 pp. 435-443
Angus, Lolium, Monte Carlo method, beef, beef cattle, beef industry, calves, carbon dioxide, carbon footprint, case studies, cattle production, climate change, cows, crude protein, digestibility, dry matter intake, feed conversion, feeding methods, grasses, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, life cycle assessment, liveweight gain, marketing, meat production, methane, mineralization, nitrous oxide, nutrients, pastures, production technology, risk, steers, uncertainty, Brazil
The carbon footprint (CF) of beef production is one of the most widely discussed environmental issues within the current agricultural community due to its association with climate change. Because of these relevant and serious concerns, the beef cattle industry is under increasing pressure to reduce production or implement technological changes with significant consequences in terms of beef marketing. The goals of this study were to evaluate the CF per 1 kg of live weight gain (LWG) at the farm gate for different beef production systems in the southern part of Brazil. Aberdeen Angus beef-bred cattle were assigned to one of seven categories: natural grass; improved natural grass; natural grass plus ryegrass; improved natural grass plus sorghum; cultivated ryegrass and sorghum; natural grass supplemented with protein mineralised salt; and natural grass supplemented with protein-energetic mineralised salt. Monte Carlo analysis was employed to analyse the effect of variations of dry matter intake digestibility (DMID), total digestible nutrients (TDN) and crude protein (CP) parameters in methane (CH4) enteric, CH4 manure, nitrous oxide (N2O) manure and N2O N-fertiliser. The method used was a comparative life cycle assessment (LCA) centred on the CF. The CF varied from 18.3 kg CO2 equivalent/kg LWG for the ryegrass and sorghum pasture system to 42.6 kg CO2 equivalent/kg LWG for the natural grass system, including the contributions of cows, calves and steers. Among all grassland-based cattle farms, production systems with DMID from 52 to 59% achieved the lowest CO2 emissions and the highest feed conversion rate, thereby generating lower CH4 and N2O emissions per production system. Because the feed intake and feed conversion rate are one of the most important production parameters in beef cattle production with an obvious risk of data uncertainty, accurate feed data, which include quantity and quality, are important in estimates of CF for LWG. The choice of adequate feeding strategies to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions may result in better environmental advantages.