What's in the news right now about environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable beef value chain.


  Welcome to the Table...
Hana Ranch Agriculture, LLC
Dateline: December 2018 | Constituency: Producer
Hana Ranch is dedicated to finding the best methods of management for a sustainable beef operation in a tropical environment. They are located on the tropical side of Maui, Hawaii. Duane Lammers, Manager since late 2017, has many years of experience on the mainland in sustainable bison production on the Great Plains. Prior to Lammers' arrival, aggressive methods that work well in many eco-regions failed there. Lammers' task is developing the methods that work best. Together with College of Tropical Agriculture and adaptive management they are planning and monitoring progress.

Executive Director's Message

Most of you will be aware that COP24, the UN climate change conference, is taking place this week and next, and you have probably seen a huge amount of coverage recently about livestock and it's GHG emissions. This is really a narrative that has gotten completely out of control, and I am very concerned that it will lead to some very poor decision making by politicians.

For those of you who may think I am thereby denying the existence of climate change, or somehow suggesting that all cattle production systems are sustainable as they are, I can assure you that I am not. Everything we do can be done well, and equally we can do anything badly if we choose to, or if we simply pay too little attention to all of the aspects involved. It is human management that determines the success and failure of anything, and that applies as much to sustainable food production as anything else. If we go all out for any one parameter, we might see some phenomenal figures, but these don't mean anything if the triple bottom line is not positive.

I strongly believe that farmers and ranchers are the group of people with the greatest understanding of natural systems there is. They work with nature every day, and most of them care deeply about it, because it's part of their livelihood. Some will devote more time and energy to experimenting and working with nature than others, just as managers in every field are varied and different. The majority of farmers and ranchers are interested in what their neighbours do, and are willing to learn, though there are always going to be a few who think they know best without trying to improve – but that applies to politicians as much or more as it does to farmers.

The reason I am worried by the increasing anti–livestock rhetoric is because I think it could lead to very poor decisions by politicians regarding the way we use land to produce food, with damaging consequences for environment, diet and sustainability.

Global grazing lands cover 3.4billion ha (8.4 billion acres) of the earth's surface, and their soils contain 50% more carbon than all of the forests on the planet. In order to maintain and increase those soil carbon levels we must continue to graze them, and improve grazing systems over much of the world. Despite the high C total, very large areas of grazing land that have been historically mismanaged are relatively low in carbon and have huge potential to sequester more. Conversion to crop agriculture results in an immediate decrease in soil carbon, and though with zero till, cover cropping and grazing it can be improved, it rarely reaches the levels that well–managed native grazing lands can sustain.

20% of the world's native grazing lands have been converted to cropping, with soil C losses of up to 60%, and some rangeland ecosystems are being converted at higher rates than tropical forests. Any policies that support further conversion to cropland will therefore create net sources of carbon to the atmosphere – in other words, are completely perverse if the objective is to lower atmospheric C.

On the other hand policies that incentivise good grazing management can lead to the sequestration of literally billions of tons of C in soils, concomitant increases in food production, resilience to drought and enormous increases in soil water infiltration and storage capacity.

Having said all of this about grazing lands, we must also accept that conversion of forest in some areas of the globe represents a very large source of carbon that is genuinely a contributor to atmospheric C. Given that in many of the tropical areas, where that is an issue, are suited to silvopastoral systems that are much more productive than pasture alone, we need to see policies that encourage the expansion of the cattle industry through intensification on existing land rather than deforestation of new land.

There are many who continue to repeat the fallacy that methane emissions from livestock are a major cause and contributor to climate change. I know I have presented many articles in the past as to why that argument does not stand up to scientific scrutiny, but I do encourage you all to share these now again, because the issue is hitting headlines and news programmes at an ever higher rate as COP24 starts.

I will be speaking briefly in Poland on the value of grazing lands for carbon sequestration, but will not have time to address the methane issue in that session.

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director

Carbon, Grasslands & Climate Change

Grassland Management Impacts On Soil Carbon Stocks: A New Synthesis
Ecological Society of America | 2016
Grassland ecosystems cover a large portion of Earth's' surface and contain substantial amounts of soil organic carbon. Previous work has established that these soil carbon stocks are sensitive to management and land use changes: grazing, species composition, and mineral nutrient availability can lead to losses or gains of soil carbon. Because of the large annual carbon fluxes into and out of grassland systems, there has been growing interest in how changes in management might shift the net balance of these flows, stemming losses from degrading grasslands or managing systems to increase soil carbon stocks (i.e., carbon sequestration).

New Real–Time Monitoring Method Could Improve the Sustainable Management of Grasslands
Siobhán Dunphy, European Scientist | November 19, 2018
A new study published on 15 November in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems has presented a cheap and easy real–time method to measure nutrient levels in grassland. This rapid new technique will allow farmers to quickly monitor changes in pasture nutrients and adapt grazing methods based on the results. The researchers showed that overgrazing pastures to below 7 cm significantly reduces the amount protein in grassland and digestibility.

Carbon Sequestration in Soil
Science Direct | August 2015
Soil carbon (C) sequestration implies transferring of atmospheric CO2 into soil of a land unit through its plants. Co–benefits of soil C sequestration include: advancing food and nutritional security, increasing renewability and quality of water, improving biodiversity, and strengthening elemental recycling.

The Role of Grasslands in Food Security and Climate Change
F. P. O'Mara, Annals of Botany | September 2012
Grasslands make a significant contribution to food security through providing part of the feed requirements of ruminants used for meat and milk production. Globally, this is more important in food energy terms than pig meat and poultry meat. Grasslands are considered to have the potential to play a key role in greenhouse gas mitigation, particularly in terms of global carbon storage and further carbon sequestration. It is estimated that grazing land management and pasture improvement (e.g. through managing grazing intensity, improved productivity, etc) have a global technical mitigation potential of almost 1·5 Gt CO2 equivalent in 2030, with additional mitigation possible from restoration of degraded lands.

Gabe Brown: Keys to Build a Healthy Soil (Video)
Transcend Productions | December 8, 2014
This is a good video about building healthy soil. Note his point 5 at about 22 minutes in, where he talks about the need for animal impact to build healthy soils. The soils he is talking about creating are very high in Carbon, which is great not only for removing C from the atmosphere, but his soils are resilient to drought, infiltrate water rapidly in heavy rainfall events and are highly productive with minimal external inputs.

He's also managed to extend his growing season. He's combining multiple species of cover crops and grazing them throughout the winter (from around minute 30). The whole video is worth watching if you have an hour – an object lesson from someone who knows how natural systems work because he's been working and experimenting with them his whole adult life and been profitable doing it. Watch the 57:52 video presentation HERE.

Soil Carbon Sequestration Potential of Us Croplands and Grasslands: Implementing the 4 Per Thousand Initiative
Adam Chambers, Rattan Lal, and Keith Paustian, Sandy Arrow Ranch | 2016
Detailed assessments of the technical potential for SOC sequestration at global (IPCC 2000; Smith et al. 2008; Paustian et al. 2016) and US (Sperow et al. 2003; Sperow 2016) scales generally support these earlier estimates of a significant soil C sink potential, on the order of hundreds of teragrams (1 Tg equals 1 million metric tonnes) per year in the United States and roughly an order of magnitude higher globally.

The Role of Ruminants in Reducing Agriculture's Carbon Footprint in North America
Journal of Soil and Water Conservation | March 2016
Owing to the methane (CH4 ) produced by rumen fermentation, ruminants are a source of greenhouse gas (GHG) and are perceived as a problem. We propose that with appropriate regenerative crop and grazing management, ruminants not only reduce overall GHG emissions, but also facilitate provision of essential ecosystem services, increase soil carbon (C) sequestration, and reduce environmental damage.

This is the article I referred to above about methane, which I have shared before. I urge you to share it widely.
Why Methane Should Be Treated Differently Compared to Long–Lived Greenhouse Gases
The Conversation | June 12, 2018
New research provides a way out of a longstanding quandary in climate policy: how best to account for the warming effects of greenhouse gases that have different atmospheric lifetimes.

Carbon dioxide is a long–lived greenhouse gas, whereas methane is comparatively short–lived. Long–lived "stock pollutants" remain in the atmosphere for centuries, increasing in concentration as long as their emissions continue and causing more and more warming. Short–lived "flow pollutants" disappear much more rapidly. As long as their emissions remain constant, their concentration and warming effect remain roughly constant as well.

View More News
Administrative Offices:
13570 Meadowgrass Drive, Suite 201
Colorado Springs, CO 80921 USA
Phone: 1-719-355-2935
Fax: 1-719-538-8847
Email: cadmin@grsbeef.org
Copyright ©2018 Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. All rights reserved.
You are receiving this message as a benefit of membership to the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef