Small steps add up to big wins

Alltech Mycotoxin Management
2019-09-06

In a world where almost every conversation seems to lead to the environment, it is easy to feel helpless.  Confusion, uncertainty, relentless media focus and sustained scrutiny of agriculture from consumers can leave producers feeling a sense of environmental fatigue.

There is a big focus on agriculture because of greenhouse gases (GHGs) associated with livestock, particularly ruminants.  A factor that is often forgotten or overlooked is that these gas emissions are representative of inefficiencies.  These might be biological inefficiencies from the digestion of the animal's diet, or they may be system inefficiencies from losses on-farm due to low productivity, infertility or involuntary culls for health.

But, the fact GHG emissions stem from inefficiencies provides an interesting situation.  It means that as farmers strive to reduce losses in their systems, their carbon footprint also improves organically.  So, as animal production improves, farmers' incomes improve, and the environmental footprint follows by itself.

The trick is to view the farm in terms of a life cycle assessment.  This recognises the interdependency of different components and acknowledges that sustainability is as much an economic concern as it is an environmental concern.

What can be gained from this is that farmers do not need to completely overhaul their current systems.  Instead, many small improvements, when added together, can produce a significant impact.

Consider what is already achievable:

  • Improving feed conversion efficiency at a genetic level through breeding on-farm may have a small impact, but that impact influences the entire life of the animal.
  • Alltech on-farm research has shown that feed losses on-farm can be as high as 25%.  Small management changes on-farm can reduce this significantly, improving the carbon footprint without adding cost.
  • KEENAN technology has shown that well-mixed and acccurately-weighed ingredients can increase feed efficiency by as much as 165 and reduce the carbon footprint by 5%.

Also, feed technologies such as Optisync® and Yea-Sacc® have been independently verified to reduce carbon footprint when used correctly, and these technologies are either cost-neutral or financially advantageous to producers.

There are on-farm husbandry practices that will also improve the carbon footprint.  For example, reducing the age of first calving and increasing lactation length can both help to make a difference.

These are all incremental changes, but when added together, they result in a significant improvement.  Services such as Alltech E-CO2 can help to make farm-level assessments and indicate where improvements need to be made.

 

Nigel Meads

Innovation Sales Manager

nmeads@alltech.com 

 

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