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Posts Tagged ‘cows’

Photo: Regeneration International.

We are told we have to give up meat if we want to fight global warming, but I know that livestock farmers are not going to give up farming. Some are experimenting with techniques to have less harmful effects on the planet — for example, using methane from farm waste to power their farms. But, as Earle keeps reminding me, methane is also a greenhouse gas, and it’s better to put a greenhouse gas into the soil, not the air. It’s called sequestration.

In today’s article, we learn about a Texas farmer who is improving the quality of his land by avoiding herbicides and letting the cows stomp down weeds and brush. At the same time, he is practicing sequestration.

Henry Fountatin writes at the New York Times, “Adam Isaacs stood surrounded by cattle in an old pasture that had been overgrazed for years. Now it was a jumble of weeds.

“ ‘Most people would want to get out here and start spraying it’ with herbicides, he said. ‘My family used to do that. It doesn’t work.’

“Instead, Mr. Isaacs, a fourth-generation rancher on this rolling land in the northeast corner of the Texas Panhandle, will put his animals to work on the pasture, using portable electrified fencing to confine them to a small area so that they can’t help but trample some of the weeds as they graze.

“ ‘We let cattle stomp a lot of the stuff down,’ he said. That adds organic matter to the soil and exposes it to oxygen, which will help grasses and other more desirable plants take over. Eventually, through continued careful management of grazing, the pasture will be healthy again.

‘These cows are my land management tool,’ Mr. Isaacs said. ‘It’s a lot easier to work with nature than against it.’

“His goal is to turn these 5,000 acres into something closer to the lush mixed-grass prairie that thrived throughout this part of the Southern Great Plains for millenniums and served as grazing lands for millions of bison.

“Mr. Isaacs, 27, runs a cow-calf operation, with several hundred cows and a dozen or so bulls that produce calves that he sells to the beef industry after they are weaned. Improving his land will benefit his business, through better grazing for his animals, less soil and nutrient loss through erosion, and improved retention of water in a region where rainfall averages only about 18 inches a year.

“But the healthier ranchland can also aid the planet by sequestering more carbon, in the form of roots and other plant tissues that used carbon dioxide from the air in their growth. Storing this organic matter in the soil will keep the carbon from re-entering the atmosphere as carbon dioxide or methane, two major contributors to global warming. …

“Soil sequestration has gained favor as a tool to fight climate change. Done on a large enough scale, proponents say, it can play a significant role in limiting global warming.

“But many scientists say that claim is overblown, that soils cannot store nearly enough carbon, over a long enough time, to have a large effect. And measuring carbon in soil is problematic, they say.

“The soil-improving practices that ranchers like Mr. Isaacs follow are referred to as regenerative grazing, part of a broader movement known as regenerative agriculture.

“There are no clear-cut definitions of the terms, but regenerative farming techniques include minimal or no tilling of soil, rotating crops, planting crops to cover and benefit the soil after the main crop is harvested, and greater use of compost rather than chemical fertilizers.

“Regenerative grazing means closely managing where and for how long animals forage, unlike a more conventional approach in which animals are left to graze the same pasture more or less continuously. Ranchers also rely more on their animals’ manure to help keep their pastures healthy.

“These practices are spreading among farmers and ranchers in the United States, spurred by environmental concerns about what industrialized farming and meat production have done to the land and about agriculture’s contribution to global warming. In the United States, agriculture accounts for about 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Agribusiness companies and large food producers are launching initiatives to encourage regenerative practices, part of efforts to appeal to consumers concerned about climate change and sustainability.

“[The] administration, in its initial moves to combat climate change, has cited agriculture as a ‘linchpin’ of its strategy. One idea is to allocate $1 billion to pay farmers $20 for each ton of carbon they trap in the soil.

“Proponents of regenerative agriculture have sometimes made extravagant claims about its potential as a tool to fight global warming. Among them is Allan Savory, a farmer originally from Zimbabwe and a leader in the movement, who in an often-cited 2013 TED Talk said that it could ‘reverse’ climate change.

Some research has suggested that widespread implementation of regenerative practices worldwide could have a significant effect, storing as much as 8 billion metric tons of carbon per year over the long term, or nearly as much as current annual emissions from burning of fossil fuels.

“While there is broad agreement that regenerative techniques can improve soil health and bring other benefits, some analyses have found that the potential carbon-sequestration numbers are vastly overstated. …

“ ‘It’s really great to see the private sector and the U.S. government getting serious about reducing agricultural emissions,’ said Richard Waite, a senior researcher at the World Resources Institute, an environmental research organization in Washington. But for carbon sequestration in soils, the institute’s analysis suggests that ‘mitigation opportunities are on the smaller side.’

“Focusing on carbon sequestration through soil also risks drawing attention from other important ways to reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint, Mr. Waite said, including improving productivity, reducing deforestation and shifting food consumption to more climate-friendly diets.”

My gut feeling is that we should use as many techniques as possible to reduce carbon emissions — that every little bit helps. Read more at the New York Times, here, and me know what you think.

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Photos: Sea Forest
Asparagopsis is a species of Red Algae that can fight global warming. When eaten by cows, it releases bromoform, which reduces methane production and limits how much CO2 goes into the atmosphere.

It isn’t hard for me to give up eating beef — but milk? For one thing, my doctor wants me to drink it. I do know that cows and other livestock are not helping with our global-warming problem, and that’s a worry. Here’s something that could help.

Tatiana Schlossberg writes at the Washington Post, “One of the most powerful weapons in the fight against climate change is washing up on shorelines around the world, unnoticed by most beachgoers. It’s seaweed. Specifically, Asparagopsis taxiformis and Asparagopsis armata — two species of a crimson submarine grass that drifts on waves and tides all around the world’s oceans.

“It doesn’t seem like much, but it could practically neutralize one of the most stubborn sources of a powerful greenhouse gas: methane emissions from the digestive processes of some livestock, including the planet’s 1.5 billion cows, which emit methane in their burps.

“Reducing methane from livestock, and cows in particular, has long been a goal of scientists and policymakers but is especially tricky: How do you change a fundamental fact of animal biology in an ethical way that doesn’t affect milk or meat?

“In lab tests and field trials, adding a small proportion of this seaweed to a cow’s daily feed — about 0.2 of a percent of the total feed intake in a recent study — can reduce the amount of methane by 98 percent. That’s a stunning drop when most existing solutions cut methane by about 20 or 30 percent.

“Meanwhile, growing seaweed used for the feed supplement could also help sequester carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas, and reduce ocean acidification, because the plant sucks up carbon in the water as food.

“Rob Kinley, the scientist who identified asparagopsis as a methane inhibitor, said it might just be the most promising way to eliminate methane emissions from livestock in the next decade.

“That’s significant because livestock overall account for about 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with nearly 40 percent of that linked to methane from the digestive process, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. …

“In a study published in 2016, Kinley and his co-authors found that asparagopsis virtually eliminated methane emissions in lab trials. When a cow eats grass or other fibrous plants, microbes inside its rumen, or first stomach, use carbon and hydrogen from the fermentation of those plants to produce methane, which escapes from the cow mainly through burping, although about 5 percent is released through flatulence.

“Asparagopsis and other types of seaweed have specialized gland cells that make and store bromoform, an organic compound. When the blurry red seaweed is freeze-dried, powdered and sprinkled as a garnish on a cow’s meal, bromoform blocks carbon and hydrogen atoms from forming methane in the stomach.

“In response, the cow makes more propionate, a fatty acid that helps produce glucose in the metabolic process, allowing the animal to more efficiently grow or to produce more milk. That may enable farmers to use less feed and save money. …

“Some evidence suggests that herders in ancient Greece fed their cows seaweed, as did many in 18th century Iceland. The most recent effort began when

Joe Dorgan, a farmer on Prince Edward Island in Canada, observed that his cows that grazed on seaweed that rolled up on beaches had better pregnancy success, produced more milk and suffered less from mastitis than cows that didn’t eat seaweed.

“Before Dorgan could sell the seaweed to other farmers, the Canadian government required proof that it was safe, said Kinley, who was then at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia and was hired by Dorgan. …

“Dorgan’s seaweed reduced methane by about 18 percent, [but, he says,] ‘The light came on for me that there’s probably a seaweed in the world that’s better than that.’ …

“A number of companies have been working to make asparagopsis taxiformis and asparagopsis armata into commercial products that can be added to animal feed. … While their approaches differ, they share an urgency in getting asparagopsis to farmers, something they recognize is not easy. It’s a challenge to figure out how to grow and process asparagopsis at scale and in a way that will translate into higher earnings for farmers.”

At the Washington Post, here, you can read about four companies that are working on this.

Cows by the sea.

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Two incredibly photogenic states.

We got a special kick out of the sheep and chickens of my husband’s cousin, a dentist. He and his wife really know how to get the most out of the rural life.

waitsfield-vt-Post-office

covered-bridge

vermont-river

nh-sheep

calf-nursing

artisan-and-ornaments

green-mt-coffee-roasters

peace-love-cows

waitsfield-coffee-shop

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Newport, Vermont, is way up north near Canada. It’s the southern port of vast Lake Memphremagog, whose name comes from an Abenaki Indian word meaning “beautiful waters.”

Any destination near Canada, as I should have known, means having access to French radio on the drive up, one of many small bonuses. Another bonus was the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center, which provides shop space for sellers of many Vermont products under one roof. I bought a very nice turkey sandwich there and a bottle of Granny Squibb‘s Unsweetened Black Currant Tea. (I thought Granny might be a local, but the bottle says she’s a “Rhode Island original.”)

Discover Newport blogged about the Tasting Center in June, “The Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center, LLC, has completed its equity financing and will open its doors to the public this summer, announced Managing Partners Eleanor Leger and Gemma Dreher.

“ ‘This is a unique enterprise that we hope can serve as a model for other rural areas, not only in Vermont but in other regions that value their working landscape,’ said Eleanor Leger, the primary leader of the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center project.

“A total of sixteen individuals and two foundations purchased equity shares in the holding company that purchased the building at 150 Main Street in downtown Newport in September of 2012.  Their equity of $562,000 is being leveraged with $750,000 in financing from Community National Bank and the Vermont Economic Development Authority [VEDA]. …

“Said Gemma Dreher, an early lead investor. ‘The Tasting Center will benefit from all of the changes happening in the Kingdom, but it will also play a key role in keeping our local farms and food producers viable for the future.’

“The building is fully leased to four local food and beverage businesses that feature products from across the region.” More.

You can learn how Newport conducted a visioning process to get input from residents on what they would like their community to be like in the future, here.

And there’s more at Newport’s website, here.

While I was enjoying my turkey sandwich and currant tea, my friends were taking a tour of nearby Jay Peak, which is benefiting from that special type green card that foreign nationals can get if they invest $500,000 in high-unemployment or rural areas. The resort is posh. I don’t think Princess Mononoke would like the loss of woodlands, but I am pretty sure the people getting the new jobs are grateful.

By the way, even if you hate superhighways, the drive  to the Northeast Kingdom, as that part of the world is known, is spectacular — green mountains, rivers, farms, red barns, cows. For all the photo ops, there are not nearly enough places to pull over and capture the autumn asters or the clouds over the mountain over the farm over the river.

Photo: http://discovernewportvt.com/fresh

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