More Methane-Producing Cattle NOT a Climate Fix

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by Mike Hudak,

Ranching’s boosters, in addition to telling the public how great their product tastes, have often promoted their cause by citing ranching’s supposed benefits to the landscape—cattle’s removal of weeds and fertilization of the soil among other things. Then they’d claim that all this cattle activity provided abundant habitat for wildlife. And, oh yes, they’d also mention that THEIR approach to ranching would increase a rancher’s profits.

But now ranching advocates (and even climate-change leader Bill McKibben) have jumped on the “climate change” bandwagon with claims that ranching can reduce greenhouse gasses. Grazing guru Allan Savory (of Holistic Management fame) even stated in his TED Talk of February 2013 (and I’m paraphrasing here) that grazing under Holistic Management is the ONLY chance we have to avert the virtual collapse of civilization from climate change. (For Savory’s verbatim statement, see footnote #11 of my essay http://mikehudak.com/Articles/HM_Memo_131113.html.)

To support such claims, ranching advocates have often cited scientific, peer-reviewed articles, such as the one by Franzluebbers & Stuedemann: “Soil-Profile Organic Carbon and Total Nitrogen During 12 Years of Pasture Management in the Southern Piedmont USA,” Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 129 (2009): 28–36. This article’s take-away message is that a properly cattle-grazed pasture that was previously cropland (and originally forest) sequesters more atmospheric carbon than does a similar pasture without cattle. In sequestering this carbon the landscape is helping to lessen global climate change. And the cattle are an essential component in that process.

I was recently asked by a member of the Sierra Club’s Grazing Team to examine the Franzluebbers & Stuedemann article for errors or omissions that would negatively impact its conclusions. Consequently, I did find deficiencies that render meaningless the article’s claimed benefit of a cattle-grazed landscape sequestering atmospheric carbon, even if that conclusion is true.

My essay about the article is now installed at
http://mikehudak.com/Articles/FranzluebbersAndStuedemannCritique.html

You can also view the essay in PDF format which is more suitable for printing:
http://mikehudak.com/Articles/FranzluebbersAndStuedemannCritique.pdf

I encourage you to read my article and to forward it to people who might find it of interest.

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6 thoughts on “More Methane-Producing Cattle NOT a Climate Fix

  1. So right. The most potent methane concentration is here in the Four Corners Region of northwestern New Mexico. The studies seem to indicate that the power plants, as damaging as they are, do not seem to be the major contributor. Interesting. There is also much fracking going on. And grazing.

      • Wow–I’m sure these plumes are popping up around the planet now. Most people do want to hear about the systemic changes taking place, and the “fix-it” engineers are already busy working on ways to keep humans doing what they do: like the desalination projects in the work in Calif.

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