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WMC REPORT - Livestock Industry Warned over Climate Change

by 5m Editor
10 September 2008, at 1:22pm

SOUTH AFRICA - The livestock industry has to take a responsible attitude to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, writes ThePoultrySite Senior Editor, Chris Harris.

This was the message to delegates at the 17th World Meat Congress in Cape Town, South Africa today Wednesday from Dr Pierre Gerber one of the authors of the FAO report Livestock's Long Shadow and climatologist, Peter Johnston.

Dr Gerber warned that pasture land and range land is being degraded by the increased use from the livestock industry.

A total of 3.4 billion hectares of pasture land in used by the livestock industry worldwide and 470 million hectares are being devoted to feed production - 33 per cent of all arable land.

He said the livestock industry had to be aware of the greenhouse gas emissions it was producing, not only through the livestock themselves, but also through feed production, use of chemical fertilisers and fossil fuels.

A total of 7.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) are produced by the livestock and feed industries, with land use change producing 36 per cent of the emissions, feed production seven per cent, animals themselves 25 per cent and manure management 31 per cent. Transport in livestock production only produces one per cent of the emission, he said.

He warned that the changes in land use included deforestation, which is a major reason for increased CO2 emissions.

"The livestock industry is not only contributing to climate change, it is suffering from it as well," Dr Gerber said.

He said that weather changes, including droughts and floods being caused by climate change, are having a significant effect on livestock production.

And he added that climate change is also presenting a challenge for food security and a challenge for the biodiversity of the planet.

"Climate change is a big problem, but there are other things as well," he said.

Dr Gerber said the industry needs to control land use and needs to manage carbon and nitrogen in the soil. It also needs to manage livestock production to ensure best productivity gains and best manure management.

He added that authorities also have a role to play in dictating policies that will help the industry control emissions and control climate change.

Peter Johnston from Cape Town University also called for increased efficiency within the livestock industry to reduce greenhouse gas production by the livestock industry.

However, Dr Luiz Antonio Pinazza, the executive director of the Brazilian Agribusiness Association said that the authorities have been taking action to prevent deforestation of the Amazon rain forests.

He said that in Brazil, most of the livestock production was in areas of the west and south-east of the country away from the rainforests and that sugar cane production for biofuels was also away from rain forest areas.

He said it was wrong to single out Brazil and accuse the country of not tackling deforestation.

And Bent Claudi Lassen from the Danish Meat and Bacon Council showed that the Danish pig meat industry was taking active measures to reduce gas emissions and the climate change effects of the industry.

He said that adjusting protein in feed had reduced the nitrogen being produced by 39 per cent.

The measures taken had reduced phosphorus production by 42 per cent and ammonia emission by 50 per cent, Mr Lassen said.

Other measures had seen an improvement in the use of pig slurry for fertiliser instead of the use of chemical fertilisers and more measures aimed to reduce the production of nitrogen further.

He said that feed use is an important aspect in reducing emissions and recycling by-products is an important part of balancing emissions.

Denmark is starting to use slurry for biogas and also reducing slaughterhouse energy consumption and water use, Mr Lassen added.

The goal for 2015 is to reduce nitrogen in slurry by a further 18 per cent, ammonia by 40 per cent and to reduce odours and the consumption of energy and water further.