One of the program priorities of the Iowa Beef Center is to help the industry adapt to environmental and economic risk.
Programs that were developed in response to drought such as nitrate testing of green chop and corn silage management were not just knee jerk reactions to the question of the moment. Much of this information is kept up-to-date to be used when needed on a timely basis. Similarly, we typically expect to have a few days of dangerous heat stress in the summer and cold stress in the winter that we anticipate that timely tips to reduce and manage that risk will be needed.
Some disasters though, such as the snowstorm that struck the South Dakota in October can be so unthinkable that no amount of preparation and management is enough. We can only assist in the recovery and helping those affected pick up the pieces. Mother Nature has a way of keeping us humble.
The climate and the livestock industry were in the news in another way last month. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations published a new report, “Tackling Climate Change through Livestock.” This is the same organization that had previously published the report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” which estimated that 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions came from livestock. This number has been disputed as an “apples vs. oranges” comparison that unfairly assessed livestock with emissions from related sectors. A report released last month by the Council for Agriculture Science and Technology (CAST), suggests that the global greenhouse gas emissions for all of agriculture are 14%. In the new report, the FAO reduced its estimate of livestock emissions to 14.5%.
Regardless of the true number, this report mostly discusses how the global livestock industry can reduce their footprint and carbon emissions. The good news is that many of the ideas are consistent with efficient, cost effective and sustainable beef production. The suggestions include improving efficiency of feed digestibility, achieving better animal health, genetic selection for performance and efficiency, improving grazing and grassland management, recycling manure nutrients to reduce fertilizer use in crop production, and more efficient production of dairy-beef. The process of making beef production more efficient and cost effective also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.