Carbon Footprint of Beef Cattle in a Conventional Production System: a Case Study of a Large-Area Farming Enterprise in the Wielkopolska Region

Animal production is a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. One of the major challenges in sustainable management is to mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing GHG emissions. The diversity of animal production systems and accompanying diversification of technological processes, mean that specific production effects can be obtained at different levels of GHG emissions. The aim of the study was to determine the carbon footprint (CF) of beef cattle grown in a conventional system (i.e. indoor confinement). The research was carried out on the beef cattle farm belonging to a large-area enterprise, Długie Stare Ltd. The beef cattle production system consisted of the following subsystems: a basic breeding herd (consisting of suckler cows, replacement heifers and calves up to 6.5 months), breeding heifers, breeding bulls and fattening bulls. The method of life cycle analysis (LCA) in the stages from "cradle-to-farmgate" was used to assess the GHG emissions associated with the production of beef cattle. The average CF in the entire beef cattle production system was 25.43 kg of CO2 kg-1 of live weight of marketed cattle, while in the individual subsystems of basic breeding herd, breeding heifers, breeding bulls and fattening bulls, the CF (after GHG allocation) was: 11.0 kg CO2 eq., 34.30 kg CO2 eq., 27.32 and 25.40 kg CO2 eq., respectively. GHG emissions associated with young calves staying in the cow-calf pairs until weaning (in the period from 0-6.5 months), had a decisive influence on the final CF in each of the subsystems of beef cattle production. The second important factor directly affecting the CF was GHG emissions related to methane (CH4) enteric fermentation and manure management. Knowledge of factors affecting the CF structure allows better identification of critical areas in production processes with high GHG emission potential. Information on the CF of beef cattle and beef meat responds to a wider societal demand for the ecological characteristics of market products, which ultimately contributes to improving their market competitiveness.

Issue Date:
Sep 30 2018
Publication Type:
Journal Article
DOI and Other Identifiers:
Record Identifier:
Published in:
Problems of World Agriculture / Problemy Rolnictwa Światowego, 18, 33, Part 3
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JEL Codes:
Q54; Q57
eISSN 2544-0659

 Record created 2018-12-03, last modified 2020-10-28

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