Are Cow Burps Adding to Atmospheric CO2?

This is where research can be tricky, especially with something like adaptive multi-paddock grazing. The word “adaptive” drives a cold chill down the spine of traditional researchers. University research is done by attempting to hold all variable constant, except for one that they decide to change. They then measure the effects of that one change. This method of reducing the variables that are changing is called “reductive science.” This type of research has its place and has brought about many wonderful discoveries and led to many life-saving inventions. So, as the number of variable held constant decreases, the validity of reductive research becomes shakier. Therefore, something like agricultural research, which works with living creatures that all differ from one another and usually outside in the elements which are constantly changing, is extremely difficult to study reductively. The same can be made for human health and human nutrition research. So, is it any wonder that we ended up with meat production systems that resemble a Ford Motor assembly line? Inside to reduce weather variability. Make each unit as similar as possible to make production and sales as easy as possible. (The definition of commodity is that each unit is the exact same and interchangeable.)  Animals are treated like simple machines. Did research shape these systems or did these systems shape the way we did research? We’ve eliminated the pigness of pigs and the cowness of cows in the process, including health and resilience.

 

Therefore, it’s no stretch of the imagination to find out that there is conflicting research on the topic of ruminant greenhouse gas emissions. (Teague dichotomy on research: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0301479713004131) To answer this question, we need to look at research that actually mimics adaptive multi-paddock grazing over many years on actual operational scale. Small research plots are not able to achieve the same outcomes of rotational grazing with high stock density grazing events and long rest.

 

GWP* (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41612-018-0026-8) https://clear.ucdavis.edu/explainers/gwp-star-better-way-measuring-methane-and-how-it-impacts-global-temperatures) The global population of cattle decreased slightly from 1,001.72 million in 2012 to 1,000.97 million in 2021. (Shahbandeh, 2021) This global decline in ruminant populations means that they add less new methane to the atmosphere than old methane is being removed, which should lead to a reduced atmospheric methane concentration. (Lynch et al., 2020)  However, methane concentrations are increasing (see figure 1). This could either indicate a change of other emission sources, or a reduction of methane sinks, or both. (Bruce-Iri et al. 2021)

https://clear.ucdavis.edu/news/climate-impacts-methane-are-overstated-according-review-new-research