Climate Change and Animal Agriculture

Cindy Zimmerman

UC-Davis Air Quality Extension Specialist Dr. Frank Mitloehner presented his views on animal agriculture and climate change during the World Ag Congress last week in St. Louis, and then followed up with a presentation on sustainability in livestock production during a roundtable presented by Novus International.

Frank MitloehnerDr. Mitloehner talked about the United Nations report that claimed livestock produce more greenhouse gases than all transportation. “This has been a very controversial report,” he said. “You can’t take these global numbers and apply them regionally. That’s one of the big issues.”

He says that increasing efficiency in livestock production is already decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, comparing the efficiency of dairy cows in the United States between 1944 and 2007. “To produce one billion kilograms of milk in 2007, we need 20 percent less cows, 25 percent less feed, 10 percent less land. In 2007, we produced 40 percent less methane and 56 percent less nitrous oxide compared to 1944. The reason for that is improved efficiency, and these are huge gains.”

He believes that while livestock production may be part of the problem in some regions, it can be part of the solution by producing energy from manure. “I come from a village in Germany that decided five years ago to establish a very large digester, which is fed with animal manure, food waste, green clippings and other residue. It produces methane, which is burned, the heat from the burning heats up a water tower, the heated water goes through a pipeline system into every home in the village and the power that is generated is used to power the entire village. This village is now the first one in the world that is off the grid.” Mitloehner says they are working on a similar project at UC-Davis.

During the Novus roundtable, it was brought out that the issues of climate change, sustainability and animal welfare are all tied together and provide both challenges and opportunities for the livestock industry. Mitloehner says producers need to confront the issues and be proactive.

You can listen to Frank Mitloehner’s opening remarks during the climate change session at the World Ag Congress: waf-09-mitloehner.MP3

Flickr Photo Album for World Ag Forum

AgWired coverage of the 2009 World Agricultural Forum World Congress is sponsored by:

Audio, Livestock, Novus International