Sustainably-managed livestock populations are also very much part of the solution to the climate change challenge, and play a significant role in healthy, balanced natural ecosystems. The environmental impact of raising livestock can vary a lot. Feed quality, genetics, and the part of the world in which the animal is being raised are just three factors. Modern advances in genetics, nutrition, and other areas of science have led to more environmentally-efficient animals, and farmers and scientists continue to work towards reducing the amount of methane produced by livestock. Consider this fact: Today, every kilogram of Canadian beef is produced using 17 per cent less water, 24 per cent less land, and generates 15 per cent less greenhouse gases, than the same amount of beef produced 30 years ago. Less than eight per cent of Canada’s land is used for agriculture. The rest has been developed as an urban landscape, is forest or shrub land, or is very difficult to impossible to grow crops on (think of Arctic regions). But livestock can flourish on terrain that’s too rocky, hilly, wet or dry for growing crops, and on grasslands which have been developed with grazing. That process gives farmers the opportunity to produce food in places where crops can’t grow.
Agriculture accounts for approximately 10 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions — this figure includes nitrous oxides from soils and fertilizers, carbon from tractors and other machinery, and methane from ruminant livestock. Generally, ruminants such as cattle, sheep, and goats comprise about 40 per cent of that amount, or four per cent of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2020, for example, farm animals comprised approximately 4.3 per cent Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
Canada’s endangered grasslands
Temperate grasslands, like those found in the southern parts of the Prairie Provinces, are among some of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. They support biodiversity by providing widely ranging wildlife habitats, holding water during floods, and helping to filter drinking water for people and wildlife. And because the land is not worked, the carbon captured by plants and put into the soil stays there as long as the land remains intact. Unfortunately, less than 20 per cent of Canadian grasslands remain intact — most have been built over, or used for growing food. Once these grasslands are lost, it is nearly impossible to replicate them
Guardians of the Grasslands
Guardians of the Grasslands is a short documentary produced by a group of dedicated conservationists, ranchers and Canadian filmmakers. The film explores the current state of one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems, the Great Plains grasslands, and the role that cattle play in its survival. A new video game has also been added to accompany the documentary, giving participants the challenge of managing their land with cattle so that the ecosystem is healthy and so that wildlife flourishes. Visit www.GuardiansoftheGrasslands.ca