Grazing Livestock - good for the landscape and the planetReturn to warmwell.com
"Our grazing livestock ...are the guardians of our landscape. The mosaics of small fields, downland, heathland, fells, salt-marshes and most of our wildlife reserves all have to be grazed to maintain their beauty and biodiversity. Without livestock, they would revert either to arable cultivation or become abandoned thickets...." (Read in full at Country Life)
Alan Titchmarsh in the BBC series "The Nature of Britain", said, "Even if it were possible to plough our grasslands and moorlands and grow vegan food, the carbon release would be far greater than centuries of the exhalations of cattle and sheep."
February 17th 2011 ~ Grazing cows or sheep cut Nitrous oxide emissions
Nitrous oxide (N2O) is about 300 times as powerful as CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere. The Telegraph recently reported on a study that found that cattle grazed on the grasslands of China actually reduces nitrous oxide and that grass fed cattle in the UK and US can also be good for the environment as long as the animals are free range.
We are told that the withdrawal of plans for the zero-grazing super-dairy at Nocton will soon be replaced by others. Quite apart from the ethics of such mega farms, the oil needed to produce the fertilisers to grow the crops and to run the machinery to harvest them for zero grazing is getting more and more expensive. Peak oil is now quietly accepted by governments - and even before this bites, the collapse of global credit means that supply lines for imports look ever more fragile. Humans cannot eat grass but ruminant livestock convert it into foods that the British have been eating for thousands of years. The proper use of grazing land for the production of good local food is vital.
May 6th 2010 ~ Today Programme did not challenge Paul McCartney's use of the faulty 2006 FAO report blaming livestock ahead of transport for carbon emissions
Although Sir Paul's interview today was interesting and well-meaning, it is hardly surprising that the National Beef Association is concerned that, in plugging his Meat Free Monday campaign, Paul McCartney on the Today Programme implied that the UN wholeheartedly approved a reduction in meat consumption. A study, Clearing the Air: Livestock's Contribution to Climate Change (pdf), by UC Davis researchers Frank Mitloehner, Maurice Piteskey and Kimberly Stackhouse and published in October in the peer-reviewed journal Advances in Agronomy puts the record straight about the 2006 FAO report,"Livestock's Long Shadow" which - as the FAO livestock policy officer, Pierre Gerber, speaking of the Mitloehner study, had told the BBC in March
".. factored in everything for meat emissions, and we didn't do the same thing with transport, we just used the figure from the IPCC...."As we reported below, the later FAO release, (January 2010) "Fighting climate change with grasslands" -far from making livestock - (as Sir Paul put it) - the CO2 "demon", says instead that pastureland for livestock can "represent a carbon sink that could be greater than forests if properly managed."
The NBA's press release today says that they have asked the BBC to "go back to maintaining their good reputation for balance and accuracy in broadcasting".
74% of the UK is pasture and rough grazing only useable by cattle and sheep. How grateful we should be for their productivity and for the beauty that pastureland still gives to our country.
April 26th 2010 ~ Grasslands absorbing and storing CO2 "pasture sequesters far more carbon than is released by the livestock grazing it"
The NBA press release draws attention today to the fact that the FAO now acknowledges that dairy cattle are responsible for only 2.7 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions
"which contrasts wildly with its influential, but flawed, report published in 2006 which claimed that the livestock sector was a major cause of climate change because it was the source of 18 per cent of global GHG output.."The FAO
"... Pastures and rangelands represent a carbon sink that could be greater than forests if properly managed......Restoring organic matter to grassland soils....can therefore help sequester large amounts of carbon - up to 1 billion tonnes a year according to some estimates...there is also evidence that the number of animal and plant species and soil microorganisms resident in grazing lands is declining alarmingly through mismanagement..."Read NBA statement in full
April 8th 2010 ~ Grazing cows or sheep can cut emissions of a powerful greenhouse gas says new study.
Nitrous oxide is the third most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide and methane. The Telegraph today reports on a study that found that cattle grazed on the grasslands of China actually reduces nitrous oxide. Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, who carried out the study in Inner Mongolia in China, is quoted:
"It's been generally assumed that if you increase livestock numbers you get a rise in emissions of nitrous oxide. This is not the case."He said the study did not take account of the methane produced by livestock nor of the carbon dioxide produced if soil erodes. The study didn't "overturn the case for cutting down on red meat" but much of the red meat eaten in the western world is from intensively farmed animals. Dr Butterbach-Bahl is quoted:
"... The research will reignite the argument over whether to eat red meat after other studies suggested that grass fed cattle in the UK and US can also be good for the environment as long as the animals are free range."See also recent posts on the importance of grazing for the landscape and the planet and the latest article in Time magazine: /www.time.com
March 16th 2010 ~ Re: The "green" agenda pushing intensive farming to save the planet?
A farmer from Wiltshire writes in response to the post below:
1) Have any of these people any proposals to maintain their proposed methods of livestock production at and beyond the point of "peak oil"?
2) If the methane produced by ruminants is so damaging, why don't we wipe out the millions of wildebeeste roaming southern Africa? Why didn't the millions of buffalo roaming the North American plains up to the 19th century bring on cataclysmic global warming centuries ago? Could it be that methane, compared to carbon dioxide, is a relatively unstable compound, and that we should be far more worried that the oil needed to produce the fertilisers to grow the crops and run the machinery to harvest them for zero grazing will hasten the onset of peak oil. Global warming is debatable, but peak oil is an inescapable reality."
January 4 2010 ~ grazing cows save the planet
The Farmers Guardian cites the Times article that notes that although the prodigious methane output of cattle may be bad for the environment, grazing on grass will soak up carbon.
As we wrote in November, "grazing cattle and sheep are the unsung heroes of the British countryside". Last year the NBA endorsed Alan Titchmarsh's remark: "Even if it were possible to plough our grasslands and moorlands and grow vegan food, the carbon release would be far greater than centuries of the exhalations of cattle and sheep."
November 26 2009 ~ "grazing cattle and sheep are the unsung heroes of the British countryside"
Last year the NBA endorsed remarks made by Alan Titchmarsh in the BBC series "The Nature of Britain", when he said,
"Even if it were possible to plough our grasslands and moorlands and grow vegan food, the carbon release would be far greater than centuries of the exhalations of cattle and sheep."At the time, Christopher Thomas-Everard wrote:
"the vegetarian alternatives of lentils, pulses and cereals all require tractor fuel.. it takes ten units of fossil fuel energy to produce every unit of this type of food. In contrast, grass-fed UK beef involves less food miles, has higher health giving omega 3 levels, provides otherwise unobtainable forms of iron and vitamins and reduces the use of fertiliser used in farming because of the organic matter co-product (dung) cows leave behind. ..and huge environmental gains in a greater weight per square metre of earthworms for the birds and animals, like moles, shrews, and badgers, which follow where cattle graze." (See also the NBA's In defence of Cattle)Methane emissions from slurry can be dealt with by anaerobic digestion. Mr Thomas-Everard says "the only landscape that does not produce methane is a desert." And most people would surely agree with the farmer in the November 3rd Ecologist article: "Livestock and land are linked; Grazing animals play a crucial role in maintaining Britain's pastoral landscape"
September 24 2009 ~ "...We should not poison our soils to save them..."
From the NYT article by Wes Jackson and Wendell Berry
"...Industrial agricultural has made our food supply entirely dependent on fossil fuels and, by substituting technological "solutions" for human work and care, has virtually destroyed the cultures of husbandry (imperfect as they may have been) once indigenous to family farms and farming neighborhoods.Read in full in the New York Times
.. The government will bring forth no food by providing hundreds of billons of dollars to the agribusiness corporations.
Any restorations will require, above all else, a substantial increase in the acreages of perennial plants. The most immediately practicable way of doing this is to go back to crop rotations that include hay, pasture and grazing animals.
... By increasing the use of mixtures of grain-bearing perennials, we can better protect the soil and substantially reduce greenhouse gases, fossil-fuel use and toxic pollution. ...with an increase in the use of perennial plants and grazing animals would come more employment opportunities in agriculture - provided, of course, that farmers would be paid justly for their work and their goods..."
June 29 2009 ~ "Assertions that grazing cattle are a long term threat to humanity must be challenged before more misinformation sinks into the public's consciousness.."
The National Beef Association continues, with its urgent new press release today, to counter the arguments of the "don't eat meat for the sake of the planet" brigade. As the NBA points out, the alternative to extensive beef farming, is ploughing up grassland to grow crops to feed humans, or animals indoors in intensive factory units. But beef cattle convert otherwise useless rough grazing and by-products (such as straw) into food for humans. The headline is Solar-powered beef cattle and sheep are environmental heroes.
Wednesday June 24 2009 ~ Lowest carbon footprint: grass-fed UK beef and lamb (killed locally), blackberries and field mushrooms
With alarm we learn that both DEFRA and the Treasury seem to consider there are disadvantages of maintaining grazing cattle in the grasslands of the UK.
"This overlong press release" as it is rather disarmingly described by the National Beef Association (read here), is actually well worth reading in full - particularly by those in power whose limited understanding may be a real threat both to the countryside and to the country as a whole. Extract:
"... The UK has only 25% of its 17.4 million ha of agricultural land as arable and 75% is grassland (7.2 m ha) and moorland and rough grazing (5.9 m ha), (with 9.34 m ha of farm-land in England). The grass and moor can almost only be used for grazing by ruminants....the total UK herd of dairy and beef cattle has fallen below 10 million for the first time since records have been kept... we are eating our potential breeding stock and sleep walking towards a national shortage."As for the newly fashionable notion of greenhouse gas problems from grass fed cattle,
"...the fastest possible way to lock up carbon is to sow grass seed on arable land and, with grazing animals, build up the sward into a thick turf as very long term or permanent storage. This can be done in three years.." Read in fullAs Caroline Cranbrook wrote recently: "...In these difficult economic times, we can play a very real part in guaranteeing the survival of our British breeds, our local food economies, our landscape and our countryside by buying British beef." (More)
June 14 2009 ~ ".. organic agriculture has the potential to contribute quite substantially to the global food supply, while reducing the detrimental environmental impacts of conventional agriculture..."
Fascinating abstract of an article, "Organic agriculture and the global food supply", in Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems (2007), 22:86-108 Cambridge University Press
"... Model estimates indicate that organic methods could produce enough food on a global per capita basis to sustain the current human population, and potentially an even larger population, without increasing the agricultural land base. .... Data from temperate and tropical agroecosystems suggest that leguminous cover crops could fix enough nitrogen to replace the amount of synthetic fertilizer currently in use..."Read in fullFrom next year, France is going to confiscate over 20 per cent of the billions of euros of European taxpayers' money paid to its ranch-like cereals farms and divert the cash to hill farmers, to grazing land, to shepherds and to organic agriculture. Is DEFRA contemplating a similar move, one wonders.
May 22 2009 ~ "Zero Grazing...Has not further intensification of stock breeding and husbandry been associated with greater and more frequent outbreaks of disease?"
In yesterday's session of oral questions in the House of Commons, we heard from Robert Key, David Taylor and Sir Patrick Cormack about the spectre of zero-grazing: a euphemism which means large numbers of cattle kept indoors and away from pastures all year round. Robert Key spoke of
"fears about the animal welfare implications of zero-grazing . ...."David Taylor made the alarming statement that the NFU, "has mounted a vigorous rebuttal of criticisms of zero-grazing" and asked,
"....has not further intensification of stock breeding and husbandry been associated with greater and more frequent outbreaks of disease?"Many will not have found Jane Kennedy's replies reassuring.
Is there no one who can explain to her that,not only has grass-fed beef increased marbling of fat, which melts into the meat during cooking and gives it a better flavour. but also - and vitally important - as Caroline Cranbrook wrote in February,
"Our grazing livestock ... are the guardians of our landscape. The mosaics of small fields, downland, heathland, fells, salt-marshes and most of our wildlife reserves all have to be grazed to maintain their beauty and biodiversity. Without livestock, they would revert either to arable cultivation or become abandoned thickets...."Read in full at Country Life
27th February 2009 ~ "Our grazing livestock are the guardians of our landscape - we still have our traditional British meat. But even that is under threat from supermarket pressure...."
Country Life recently conducted a British beef tasting. The winner out of about 10 different breeds was the Longhorn ( see examples of the breed)
One of the judges, Caroline Cranbrook, explains in her article"Britain's Best Steak" in praise of British grass-fed beef;
" ... Research suggests (and diners know) that grass-fed beef tastes better. Traditional breeds also have increased marbling of fat, which melts into the meat during cooking and gives it a better flavour. Treatment at slaughter is another factor.Read in full at Country Life
If animals are stressed before slaughter, the meat becomes tough. Short journeys to the local abattoir equal less stress for the animal, fewer 'food miles' and better meat.
Our grazing livestock ... are the guardians of our landscape. The mosaics of small fields, downland, heathland, fells, salt-marshes and most of our wildlife reserves all have to be grazed to maintain their beauty and biodiversity. Without livestock, they would revert either to arable cultivation or become abandoned thickets...."