.....A view from "down the lane" ....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sustainability in Agriculture.....some facts about cattle and farming

Sustainability Fun Facts

In the United States, 98 percent of farms are family farms.

Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture decreased 4.2 percent from 2001 to

From 1990 to 2005, overall methane emissions decreased 11.5 percent.

Most large feedlot owners have a dedicated environmental engineer either on
staff or on contract who ensures the operation is in compliance with strict
government regulations.

This year, 46,000 upland acres of private land, mostly on working farms and
ranches, were restored to benefit the grizzly bear.

U.S. consumers spend a smaller percent of their disposable income on
groceries than consumers any where else in the world.

This year, 120,000 acres of private land, mostly on working farms and
ranches, were restored to benefit the bald eagle.

In the Eastern and Central United States, wildlife is almost entirely
dependent on ranch, farm and other private lands; so, ranchers play an
important role in the survival of native species.

Grazing cattle can minimize the invasion of non-native plant species.

Farmers’ and ranchers’ landowner agreements restored or enhanced 445,000
acres and 885 river miles of habitat for fish and wildlife.

Today's American farmer feeds about 144 people worldwide.

Today versus 1960: 1.8 million less farms are feeding a U.S. population that
has increased 61 percent.

Controlling dust has been a priority land-management practice on cattle
operations for generations.

Agricultural productivity in the United States has more than doubled in the
past 50 years.

Grazing cattle reduces the risk of wildfires by decreasing the amount of
flammable material on the land.

Because 85 percent of U.S. grazing lands are unsuitable for producing crops,
grazing animals more than doubles the area that can be used to produce food.

Rangelands and pastures provide forage and habitat for numerous wildlife
species, including 20 million deer, 500,000 pronghorn antelope, 400,000 elk
and 55,000 feral horses and burros.

Cattle serve a valuable role in the ecosystem by converting the forages
humans cannot consume into a nutrient-dense food.

Last year, more than 2,000 ranchers and farmers entered into landowner
agreements with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

About a billion acres, or 55 percent of the total land surface in the United
States, is rangeland, pasture and forages.

Calculate your personal greenhouse gas emissions using EPA’s calculator:

EPA’s Clean Water Act sets forth requirements for protecting our nation’s
water resources. Animal manures are a valuable fertilizer and soil

Beef producers consider the rate of growth and consumption of plants in a
given area when deciding how to rotate cattle to new pastures.

Cattle grazing plays an important role in maintaining the wetland habitat
necessary for some endangered species.

The United States has 16 million more acres of forestland than it did in

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Cattle and the Environment: A Source of Energy?

As the world's demand for alternative energy sources increase, there is potential "right under our noses!" Yes, from the world of animals and from their excrement.....Manure, which produces methane, can potentially become a great resource.

Cattle, which have been rudely and wrongly accused of having a negative impact on the environment, are a wonderful and powerful resource. Cattle work with the environment!

There are two reasons for pursuing the development of methane energy: 1) methane is plentiful, and 2) energy demands are only going to increase.

So, rather than look at methane production as a problem, it might well be part of the solution!

Methane is the second largest contributor to greenhouse gasses that can be attributed to man’s activity. Carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to contribute 75% to global warming effects. Methane is a distant second at 15%, and this relatively small number even accounts for the fact that methane gas is twenty times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat.

Research indicates that if you must use some other carbon source for energy, you still generate carbon dioxide as well as release the wasted methane from the manure pile. The result in the end has the effect of trapping this methane and burning it, which converts one greenhouse gas into another greenhouse gas (but reduces the greenhouse effect of the gas by perhaps twenty times).

There is plenty of energy potential in using manure. Of the millions of tons of methane that is generated each year, about one/fourth comes from domestic animals. While it would be inconvenient to collect the gas generated by enteric fermentation, it would certainly be feasible to collect and use the methane generated each year from the anaerobic fermentation of domestic animal manure.

There are companies, eg: S.C. Johnson and BMW, that are already using methane from landfill sites to generate power for their plants. The next step is to encourage the development and construction of digesters and processors, using animal manure. What a turn-around.....the cow has always been one of nature's greatest and most efficient recyclers. Like the buffalo, it is efficient and works in concert WITH nature -- a fact that has been quite overlooked by many who do not understand the facts -- and now it might well provide the world with a feasible, reliable, renewable resource.