Transforming beef farming systems: advances in grazing management for sustainable production
Ricardo Gonzalez Quintero1, Liliana Atencio Solano2, Emiro Suárez Paternina2, Jorge Mejía Luquez2, Jesús Fernando Florez3, Stefan Burkart4, Jacobo Arango4
1The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, Trop. Forages Program, Kenya
This study analyses the impact of high-quality nutritional grasses in feeding on beef cattle in farms from Córdoba Department, Colombia. The low productivity and high environmental impact associated with beef farming in the region make it necessary to implement sustainable intensification strategies that increase animal yield and mitigate climate change. The study uses the life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology to estimate the carbon footprint (CF) of 20 beef fattening farms in Cordoba Department, estimates the economic valuation of the CF, and identifies the potential beef yield improvements and GHGE mitigation in farms that have implemented high-yield improved pastures. The CF was calculated in a cradle-to-farm gate perspective. GHGE were estimated by applying the 2019 Refinement to 2006 IPCC guidelines. One kg live weight gain (LWG) corresponded to the functional unit. No allocation was made as the only product leaving the farm was live animals. The market price method was applied for the economic valuation of CF. The results of the study show that the 25% of farms with the lowest CF (varying from 9.2 and 12.1 kgCO2-eq kgLWG-1) have an average live weight gain (LWG) of 349.2 kg AU-1yr-1, and their CF is valued at US$0.32. All the farm areas correspond to high-yield improved pastures, and good cattle and pasture management practices are implemented. On the other hand, the remaining 75% of farms have a CF between 13.5 and 43.4 kgCO2-eq kgLWG-1, a meat yield of 210 kg LWG AU-1yr-1, less than 50% of farm area dedicated to improved pastures, poor cattle and pasture management practices, and their CF is valued at US$0.64. The study highlights the importance of a nutritious cattle diet, through the adoption of high-yield improved pastures, and good managing practices in improving animal productivity, environmental performance, and economic valuation of the CF of beef cattle systems. The findings provide insights into possible technological and managerial changes for transforming beef cattle systems in Colombia by enhancing animal productivity and mitigating GHGE. In conclusion, the adoption of high productivity and quality nutritional grasses in beef cattle feeding can be a sustainable strategy to enhance yields while mitigating GHGE.
Keywords: Carbon footprint, economic assessments, greenhouse gas emissions, life cycle assessment, mitigation actions
Contact Address: Ricardo Gonzalez Quintero, The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, Trop. Forages Program, Kasarani rd. icipe complex, PO Box 823-00621 Nairobi, Kenya, e-mail: r.gonzalezcgiar.org