Livestock remains essential for a balanced agroecological system
Ruminant livestock has a key role to play in a transition to a sustainable farming system to tackle climate, nature and health crises, according to a new analysis released this week. Farming for Change report issued by the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission (FFCC) charity argues that ruminant livestock shouldn't be considered as "the climate villain of global agriculture but at the heart of a functioning and balanced agroecological system".
This is because of their capacity to improve soil fertility through their manure and enable farmers to “harness the potential of grasslands to produce nutrient-dense protein”. The FFCC report is based on the “Ten Years for Agroecology Europe” model by the French Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), regionalised for the UK. It acknowledges that ruminants are significant contributors to greenhouse gases, with enteric fermentation (the digestion of organic materials by livestock) and methane emissions.
The model estimates that by 2050 ruminant livestock will contribute 28% of remaining agricultural emissions in the UK.
But the study highlights their capacity to transform nitrogen from UK grasslands into organic fertiliser that is “far less volatile” than synthetic nitrogen fertiliser. Therefore, they could help in the elimination of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. In summary, the IDDRI model recommends “less but better” meat consumption. Under the analysis, production of beef would fall by 3% and sheep by about one-third by 2050.
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