Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Beef Cow-Calf Grazing Systems in Uruguay

Evaluating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at farm level is an important tool to mitigate climate change.Livestock account for 80% of the total GHG emissions in Uruguay, and beef cow-calf systems are possibly thelargest contributors. In cow-calf grazing systems, optimizing forage allowance and grazing intensity mayincrease pasture productivity, reproductive performance, beef productivity, and possibly reduce GHG emissions.This study estimated GHG emissions per kg of live weight gain (LWG) and per hectare from 20 cow-calfsystems in Uruguay, with different management practices. The GHG emissions were on average 20.8 kgCO2 LWG -1 , ranging from 11.4 to 32.2. Beef productivity and reproductive efficiency were the maindeterminants of GHG emissions. Five farm clusters were identified with different productive and environmentalefficiency by numerical classification of relevant variables. Improving grazing efficiency by optimizing thestocking rate and forage production can increase beef productivity by 22% and reduce GHG emissions per kgLWG by 28% compared to “low performance” management. Further improvements in reproductive efficiencycan increase productivity by 41% and reduce GHG emissions per kg LWG by 23%, resulting in a “carbon smart”strategy. However, the most intensified farms with highest stocking rate and beef productivity, did not reduceGHG emissions per kg LWG, while increased GHG emissions per ha compared to the carbon smart. Thisanalysis showed that it is possible to simultaneously reduce carbon footprint per kg and per ha, by optimizinggrazing management. This study demonstrated that there is high potential to reduce cow-calf GHG emissionsthrough improved grazing management.

Researcher Details

Research Paper

Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Beef Cow-Calf Grazing Systems in Uruguay


Sustainable farming

Researcher Name

Gonzalo Becoña; Laura Astigarraga; Valentin D. Picasso

Organisation/ University

Instituto Plan Agropecuario, Uruguay; Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad de la República, Uruguay; Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad de la República, Uruguay


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