Dr Sara Place Believes Cattle Feeders  Can Be an Integral Part in Climate Solution

Click here to listen to Ron Hays talk with Dr. Sara Place about how cattle feeders can mitigate methane emissions.

Senior Farm and Ranch Broadcaster, Ron Hays, is visiting with Colorado State University Feedlot Systems Specialist, Dr. Sara Place, about how cattle feeders can be part of the climate solution.

Most recently, Sara has been the Chief Sustainability Officer at Elanco Animal Health, and prior to Elanco, she was the senior director for sustainable beef production research at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and an assistant professor in sustainable beef cattle systems at Oklahoma State University.

“I am at Colorado State University, part of a group called AgNext, and we are 100 percent focused on sustainable solutions in animal ag and solutions that are scalable, practical and keep in mind the producer economics first and foremost,” Place said.

In order to achieve climate neutrality, like many ag groups are aiming to within the next few decades, Place said many things have to line up.

“One, you have got to make sure you have a good baseline and you know where you are at,” Place said. “So, that is some of the work we do is make sure we refine models or ways we predict emissions to make sure they are accurately reflecting what is happening on the ground in the cow industry, that we capture the efficiency gains that have happened over time.”

The second most important part of achieving climate neutrality is interventions, or things that could be changed.

“The big thing there for the cattle industry is the single biggest source of emissions if we are going to hit this climate neutrality goal is the methane that cattle naturally produce- what they burp up,” Place said. “That is a big part of the research we do at AgNext is thinking about how do we measure those methane emissions and what are the things we can practically do and are scalable to influence and potentially mitigate those methane emissions.”

There are opportunities to reduce methane, Place said, because it has a short life cycle.

“Basically, our climate bang-for-buck is higher for methane because of that short life-cycle,” Place said. “It responds more to what we do. So that is part of that opportunity on the cattle side of things is we know we manage these landscapes, these grazing lands, an incredible wildlife habitat that stores carbon, and the other opportunity is if we can cut methane emissions.”

Place talked about how cattle can be fed and finished out on a grain-based diet to cut methane emissions significantly. While methane emissions from cattle are natural, Place added, those emissions are also a loss of feed calories.

“As we feed higher grain diets, more energy-dense diets, we lower methane emissions and we actually increase the efficiency of feed conversion,” Place said.

Part of the reason the U.S. cattle industry is so efficient, Place said is because America produces more food with fewer animals, and we have the ability to have those animals finish faster.

“That grain finished part of our industry is a big reason why we are able to do that, among other things,” Place said.

Within ten years, Place said she believes the United States will see products on the market labeled exclusively for or include “methane reduction” as part of their claims, and producers could see incentives to produce cattle with reduced methane production.

To learn more about AgNext and how cattle feeders can take part in the climate solution in ways such as mitigating emissions, click here.

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