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Research shows cattle might not contribute as much to climate change as previously thought

Posted at 6:11 PM, Oct 19, 2023

MILFORD, Neb (KMTV) — There has been a lot of talk lately about cows and the role their flatulence plays in climate change.

But many cattle producers will tell you, that’s a load of bull.

“Any cattle producer will probably smirk when they hear that as far as the methane released by cows affecting global warming,” said Austin Schweitzer, who runs the cow-calf operations Schweitzer Angus.

Research into cattle emissions has mostly focused on the emissions from the cows themselves but new research happening at the University of Nebraska is focusing on the pastures where cattle graze and the role it can play in carbon capture.

“They have not accounted for the capture part, they only account for methane being lost and everything else is in balance. It turns out that’s not really true,” said Galen Erickson, a researcher at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

When it comes to greenhouse gasses you have emissions and capture.

Animals produce CO2, but the soil and plants that grow in it can capture CO2.

Erickson’s team has found that capture — helped out by grazing and manure — can far outweigh the emissions from cattle.

“With adequate precipitation, we are seeing that grasslands can take up more CO2 and carbon in the soil and plants, that offsets the CO2 that cattle are producing but it also offsets the methane,” said Erickson.

Erickson and Sweitzer both hope this research won’t just correct assumptions about the Ag industry's role in climate change, but also help remind folks that Ag producers care about the climate they work in.

Without a healthy climate, they go out of business.

“Without a stable environment, we can’t produce good cattle and can’t produce good crops. We need to be good stewards of the land but the fingers coming at cattle producers helping increase global warming is a statement that needs to be looked at with a grain of salt,” said Schweitzer

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