Neutral and Regenerative Livestock
THE NEUTRAL LIVESTOCK PROJECT
The Neutral Livestock Project aims to make the chain of livestock more sustainable through projects that seek a better balance between human needs and the environment
In this context the project developed a platform capable of neutralizing the major source of greenhouse gas emissions of beef cattle and dairy cows, or being, the emission of enteric methane gas.
The emission of enteric methane by fermentation occurs in the digestive process of ruminants. The rumen is a "primate stomach" and for some reason, has not changed during the last chronological ages. To obtain nutrients from grass rich in fiber (cellulose and hemicellulose), the digestive system of ruminants performs a reaction to methanogenesis that has a methane waste, termed enteric methane.
The term ruminant is related to the habit of ruminating these animals, that is, after they eat, this is regurgitated into the mouth where it is chewed again (ruminated) and swallowed.
Figure 1 - Scheme of emission of enteric methane from cattle
Source: Neutral Livestock Project 2016
Figure 1 shows the rumination process in which oxygen (O2) is absorbed and methane (CH4) is exhaled together with carbon dioxide (CO2).
Approximately 95% of the methane produced in the rumen, goes to the lung and is emitted into the atmosphere during the process of respiration and exhalation, and thus contributes to the increase of greenhouse gases, the degradation of the ozone layer and global warming.
Livestock is one of the largest global sources of greenhouse gases in Brazil. This situation is accentuated due to the country using large-scale models of extensive livestock farming, low productivity, and has one of the largest herds in the world.
Source: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Estimates System.
Figure 2 shows the agricultural sector emissions in the period between 1970 and 2014 and highlights the emissions from enteric fermentation as the main source of greenhouse gases, second place comes the transformation and land use.
1° step: introduction of regenerative livestock management
Much of the environmental impacts attributed to pasture livestock are more related to the way the management is carried out than to the raising of these animals.
Regenerative management of livestock is based on the premise that herbivores have always existed and play an important role in the balance of ecosystems, which consists of pruning management of grazing fields
According to internationally recognized research, adequate pasture pruning is a revitalization factor of pastures, being this one of the ways to fix carbon in the soil on a large scale.
In this way the issue is not directly linked to animals, but rather the way that man has been performing his management. The guiding principle of the Neutral Livestock Project is that man and cattle can act as elements for the revitalization of ecosystems, a practice that has been called regenerative management of livestock
In order to assist in this issue, the Neutral Livestock Project has as 1° step the following instructions:
- Voisin's rational grazing method
- Planning of the rotation of the pickets, being one plan for rainy season and other for the dry season
- Adjustment in the division of the pickets and, consequently, pressure of the grazing of the animals
- Potentiate the vegetative metabolism of the pasture and, consequently, the soil carbon fixation carried out exclusively by the grazing root system
- Monitoring the evolution of carbon and soil organic matter
- Genetic evolution of the herd
- Environmental Adequacy of farms
- Multiply productivity per hectare, 2 to 5 times depending on initial diagnosis
2 step: introduction of trees into the production system
By livestock in the production model that integrates livestock with the planting of renewable commercial forests, it is possible to neutralize all enteric methane emitted by animals and even generates excess credits.
The addition of the forest component to the system increases the volume of photosynthesis and the amount of roots in the soil, which are responsible for the fixation of approximately 6.1 tons. of CO2 eq./ha/year.
This production system is called the Silvopastoral System or Livestock and Forest Integration.
The Neutral Livestock Project indicates the planting a range between 100 to 250 trees per hectare in the single line system, which facilitates planting and decreases the value of the investment (click here and more about the financial assessment).
Figure 3: Conventional System
Figure 4: Integration of beef cattle and forest
Figure 5: Integration of dairy cows and forest
Above, in Figure 3, the most practiced model in Brazil is shown, extensive livestock grazing. Figure 4 shows the integration of livestock with renewable commercial forests, which performs timber and meat production in the same space at the same time enhancing financial income and contributing to environmental conservation. Figure 5 shows dairy cows inserted in the same context.
It is worth noting that the same logic can be used for milk and meat production in neutral enteric methane.