Greenhouse gas emissions from ruminant livestock vary considerably depending on production conditions. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, levels of emissions per kg of edible milk protein are several times higher than in Europe or North America.
Photo: J. Boethling


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Livestock production is responsible for a large amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, numerous approaches have been developed to reduce these emissions and thus lower environmental pollution caused by livestock husbandry. This article shows where interventions are possible and which hurdles have to be cleared in implementing the various measures needed.

Increasing consumption of livestock products due to changes in people’s diet and greater food demand of a growing world population has been highlighted by the scientific community and public media as a major threat to the global climate system as well as other aspects of the global environment, specifically land degradation, water pollution and biodiversity loss (FAO, 2006). Increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere (particularly carbon dioxide – CO2, methane – CH4 and nitrous oxide – N2O) are driving global climate change (IPCC, 2013). Enteric fermentation during feed digestion by ruminants is a major source of atmospheric CH4 (see Figure on page 33). Moreover, CH4 and N2O are released following excretion of faeces and urine e.g. on pastures, as well as during storage and application to agriculture land. In total, it is estimated that livestock-related GHG emissions, defined as the “sum of emissions from enteric fermentation and manure emissions, plus emissions from cropland for feed cultivation”, represent over 80 per cent of total agriculture emissions or 12 per cent of total global anthropogenic emissions (Tubielle et al., 2013).

Regional discrepancies

Dairy and beef cattle in the more developed regions (Europe incl.

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