the sheep industry tackles climate change
BILLINGS — Climate change has become a global priority, and the U.S. sheep industry has an important story to tell about the carbon footprint of animal agriculture.
“In my opinion, we should really play an honest role in reducing our environmental footprint while producing the food we produce and do a much better job of communicating with the general public,” said Dr Frank, professor of air quality at UC-Davis. Mitleohner. “Especially the younger generation who want to know where the food comes from.”
Over the years, environmental concerns about animal production have gained ground, and that’s why sheep farmers like American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) President Susan Schultz say it’s so important to tell their story.
“We have to change the narrative because we can do things like targeted grazing and managed grazing,” Schultz said. “We have the ability with our sheep to do wonderful things for the soil. But we are not telling this story and we have to improve.
Despite repeated attacks from radical environmental groups, Dr. Mitleohner says farming actually reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
“Often agriculture is presented as a net source of greenhouse gases, only leading to climate change,” Mitleohner said. “But what is really interesting is that a greenhouse gas, methane, can be an important avenue for solutions. If you manage to keep the methane stable, or better yet, reduce the methane, you are actually extracting carbon from the air. And when you reduce carbon, when you reduce methane, you reduce warming. You induce what is called negative heating, that is, cooling. So if we reduce methane by 10, 20, 30%, we are actively extracting carbon from the atmosphere much like if we were to plant forests that do the same thing during photosynthesis. And that’s where I want the agricultural sector to go. To find their role and understand their role and be part of the solution.
Along with the work done by the ASI, the American Lamb Board is also working with Michigan State University to assess the environmental footprint of the U.S. sheep industry to have accurate and robust data to contribute to this important issue.
The initial objective of the study is to define a comprehensive model of greenhouse gas emissions for the wide range of U.S. sheep production systems such as rangelands, farm flocks, pastures, feedlots and feedlots. A plan of farmer education strategies to address these priorities will close the project.