LOSSES within dairy and beef production systems directly influence the environmental impact of a particular system, livestock sustainability professional Dr. Jude Capper explained at the American Feed Industry Assn.'s nutrition symposium last week in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Capper noted that such things as nutrition, morbidity, mortality, parasites, poor reproduction, antibiotic residues, carcass defects and feed shrink all play a role in the resulting carbon footprint of animal agriculture.
As the cattle industry strives to not only be economically viable but also environmentally responsible and socially acceptable, which Capper suggested should be the overall objective, she said technology can play a significant role.
While some would argue that land and improved crop yields will get the industry to where it needs to be, Capper said that is not likely, and instead, 70% of the projected increase in food production needed in the coming decades to feed the world's growing population will have to come from the use of technology.
According to Capper, if the European Union allowed the use of performance technologies in the 244 million metric tons of beef it imports each year, the carbon footprint of EU beef imports would be cut by 755 mmt, which is equivalent to taking 149 million cars off the road each year.
In the U.S., the extra beef produced from the use of growth-enhancing technologies on a single beef cow supplies seven children with school lunches for a whole year, an extra 10 lb. of milk per day from a single dairy cow supplies 31 children with milk at school lunch for a whole year and the extra beef produced via effective parasite control in a 35-cow herd supplies 19 families with their annual beef demand, according to Capper's calculations.
At the worldwide level, average losses due to animal diseases exceed 20%, according to the World Organization for Animal Health.
Capper noted that she does not believe any one solution exists for reducing the cattle industry's environmental impact and said, instead, it will come down to more individualized approaches.
"What might work on ranch A may not work on ranch B, so it is important that we consider that rather than put in place blanket changes that supposedly have application across the industry," she said.