CSIRO Publishing blank image blank image blank image blank imageBooksblank image blank image blank image blank imageJournalsblank image blank image blank image blank imageAbout Usblank image blank image blank image blank imageShopping Cartblank image blank image blank image You are here: Journals > Animal Production Science   
Animal Production Science
Journal Banner
  Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals
blank image Search
blank image blank image
blank image
  Advanced Search

Journal Home
About the Journal
Editorial Structure
Online Early
Current Issue
Just Accepted
All Issues
Special Issues
Research Fronts
Virtual Issues
Sample Issue
For Authors
General Information
Submit Article
Author Instructions
Open Access
Awards and Prizes
For Referees
Referee Guidelines
Review an Article
For Subscribers
Subscription Prices
Customer Service
Print Publication Dates
Library Recommendation

blue arrow e-Alerts
blank image
Subscribe to our Email Alert or RSS feeds for the latest journal papers.

red arrow Connect with us
blank image
facebook twitter logo LinkedIn


Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 56(3)

Greenhouse gas emissions of Canadian beef production in 1981 as compared with 2011

G. Legesse A, K. A. Beauchemin B, K. H. Ominski A, E. J. McGeough A, R. Kroebel B, D. MacDonald C, S. M. Little B and T. A. McAllister B D

A Department of Animal Science, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3T 2N2.
B Lethbridge Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, PO Box 3000, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada T1J 4B1.
C Environment Canada, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada K1A 0H3.
D Corresponding author. Email: tim.mcallister@agr.gc.ca

Animal Production Science 56(3) 153-168 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AN15386
Submitted: 18 July 2015  Accepted: 2 December 2015   Published: 23 December 2015

PDF (573 KB) $25
 Supplementary Material
 Export Citation

The present study compared the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and breeding herd and land requirements of Canadian beef production in 1981 and 2011. In the analysis, temporal and regional differences in feed types, feeding systems, cattle categories, average daily gains and carcass weights were considered. Emissions were estimated using life-cycle assessment (cradle to farm gate), based primarily on Holos, a Canadian whole-farm emissions model. In 2011, beef production in Canada required only 71% of the breeding herd (i.e. cows, bulls, calves and replacement heifers) and 76% of the land needed to produce the same amount of liveweight for slaughter as in 1981. Compared with 1981, in 2011 the same amount of slaughter weight was produced, with a 14% decline in CH4 emissions, 15% decline in N2O emissions and a 12% decline in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use. Enteric CH4 production accounted for 73% of total GHG emissions in both years. The estimated intensity of GHG emissions per kilogram of liveweight that left the farm was 14.0 kg CO2 equivalents for 1981 and 12.0 kg CO2 equivalents for 2011, a decline of 14%. A significant reduction in GHG intensity over the past three decades occurred as a result of increased average daily gain and slaughter weight, improved reproductive efficiency, reduced time to slaughter, increased crop yields and a shift towards high-grain diets that enabled cattle to be marketed at an earlier age. Future studies are necessary to examine the impact of beef production on other sustainability metrics, including water use, air quality, biodiversity and provision of ecosystems services.

Additional keywords: beef cattle, environmental footprint, greenhouse gases.


AAFC (2013) ‘Read meat conversion factors.’ (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada: Ottawa, Canada) Available at http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/industry-markets-and-trade/statistics-and-market-information/by-product-sector/red-meat-and-livestock/red-meat-market-information-canadian-industry/carcass-weight/conversion-factors/?id=1415860000020 [Verified 23 March 2015]

AARD (Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development) (2011) ‘CowBytes beef ration balancer program. Version 5.’ (AARD: Alberta, Canada)

Abouguendia Z (1998) Nutrient content of native forages. Final report on ADF Project #94000114. Grazing and Pasture Technology Program. Regina, SK, Canada.

Agriculture Canada (1981a) ‘Food from land: I. Animal protein; II. Nonanimal protein.’ Papers presented to the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee at the House of Commons, Ottawa, 1 and 30 November 1977. (Research Branch, Agriculture Canada: Ottawa, Canada)

Agriculture Canada (1981b) ‘Livestock market review.’ (Marketing and Economics Branch, Agriculture Canada: Ottawa, ON, Canada)

Alberta Agriculture (2013) Alberta 2013 greenfeed and silage production survey results. Available at http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/sdd15462 [Verified 23 March 2015]

Armstrong SL, Wilton JW, Schaeffer LR, Pfeiffer WC (1990) Feed intake, weaning weight and net returns comparisons for four breeding systems. Journal of Animal Science 68, 1848–1856.

Basarab J, Baron V, López-Campos Ó, Aalhus J, Haugen-Kozyra K, Okine E (2012) Greenhouse gas emissions from calf- and yearling-fed beef production systems, with and without the use of growth promotants. Animals 2, 195–220.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Beauchemin KA, McGinn SM (2005) Methane emissions from feedlot cattle fed barley or corn diets. Journal of Animal Science 83, 653–661.

Beauchemin KA, McAllister TA, McGinn SM (2009) Dietary mitigation of enteric methane from cattle. CAB Reviews. Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources 4, 1–18.
CrossRef |

Beauchemin KA, Janzen HH, Little SM, McAllister TA, McGinn SM (2010) Life cycle assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from beef production in western Canada: a case study. Agricultural Systems 103, 371–379.
CrossRef |

Beef Cattle Research Council (2012) ‘National beef research strategy.’ A document prepared by the Beef Cattle Research Council, a division of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, and the National Beef Value Chain Roundtable, Calgary, Canada.

BSI (British Standards Institute) (2008) ‘Specification for the assessment of life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of goods and services.’ British Standard, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Carbon Trust 2008. PAS 2050:2080. (British Standard Institute: London)

Butson S, Berg RT (1984) Lactation performance of range beef and dairy-beef cows. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 64, 253–265.
CrossRef |

Canadian Beef Grading Agency (2014) ‘Monthly and annual, slaughter and carcass data for 2011.’ Sourced through Canfax Research Services, 15 October 2014. Available at http://www.canfax.ca/research.aspx [Verified 23 March 2015]

Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (2008) Feed grains and forage research and commercialization in Canada. A report prepared by Strategic Vision Consulting. Available at http://www.cattle.ca/assets/Uploads/IA/633-feed-grains-and-forage-research-and-commercialization-in-canada-full-report.pdf [Verified 23 March 2015]

Canadian Food Inspection Agency (1992) ‘Livestock and poultry carcass grading regulations, office consolidation.’ Available at http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/SOR-92-541.pdf [Verified 15 September 2015]

Canfax Research Services (2009) ‘Trends, cycles and seasonality in the cattle industry. A publication of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.’ (Canfax Research Services: Calgary, Canada)

Canfax Research Services (2014) ‘The Canadian beef sustainability assessment scenarios.’ Working document for the Canadian Beef Sustainability Assessment commissioned by the Canadian Roundtable of Sustainable Beef.

Canfax Research Services (2015) ‘Statistical briefer, March 2015.’ Available at http://www.canfax.ca/Samples/StatBrf.pdf [Verified 15 September 2015]

Capper JL (2011) The environmental impact of beef production in the United States: 1977 compared with 2007. Journal of Animal Science 89, 4249–4261.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

CDIC (2014) ‘Registrations of animals from artificial insemination sires in Canada: dairy cattle.’ (Canadian Dairy Information Centre) Available at http://dairyinfo.gc.ca/index_e.php?s1=dff-fcil&s2=mrr-pcle&s3=dcr-ebl&menupos=1.1.8 [Verified 20 September 2014]

CRA (2010) Evaluating environmental and economic impact for beef production in Alberta using life cycle analysis: Final report. Prepared by Conestoga-Rovers & Associates (CRA) for Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Alberta, Canada.

Desjardins RL, Worth DE, Vergé XPC, Maxime D, Dyer J, Cerkowniak D (2012) Carbon footprint of beef Cattle. Sustainability 4, 3279–3301.
CrossRef | CAS |

Dick M, da Silva MA, Dewes H (2015) Life cycle assessment of beef cattle production in two typical grassland systems of southern Brazil. Journal of Cleaner Production 96, 426–434.
CrossRef |

Dijkstra J, France J, Ellis JL, Strathe AB, Kebreab E, Bannink A (2013) Productions efficiency of ruminants: feed, nitrogen and methane. In ‘Sustainable animal agriculture’. (Ed. E Kebreab) pp. 10–25. (CAB International: Wallingford, UK)

Dorff E, Beaulieu MS (2014) ‘Feeding the soil puts food on your plate.’ Canadian agriculture at a glance: analytical paper. Catalogue no. 96-325-X, No. 004. (Statistics Canada: Ottawa, Canada)

Duckett SK, Pratt SL (2014) Meat science and muscle biology symposium: anabolic implants and meat quality. Journal of Animal Science 92, 3–9.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Duke C (2006) ‘The potential for agricultural greenhouse gas emission reductions in the temperate region of Canada through nutrient management planning.’ A BIOCAP research Integration Program synthesis paper. (Soil Resource Group, OMAFRA: Kingston, ON, Canada)

Dyer JA, Vergé XPC, Desjardins RL, Worth D (2008) Long term trends in the greenhouse gas emissions from the Canadian dairy industry. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 88, 629–639.
CrossRef | CAS |

Farm and Food Care Ontario (2015) ‘Facts and figures about Canadian veal.’ Available at http://ontarioveal.on.ca/pdfs/Farm-and-Food-Care-Veal-Factsheet.pdf [Verified 15 September 2015]

Grebitus C, Steiner B, Veeman M (2013) Personal values and decision making: evidence from Environmental footprint labeling in Canada. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 95, 397–403.
CrossRef |

Hamel M-A, Dorff E (2014) ‘Corn: Canada’s third most valuable crop.’ Canadian agriculture at a glance. analytical paper. Catalogue no. 96–325-X, No. 002. (Statistics Canada, Agriculture Division: Ottawa, Canada)

Hawrysh ZJ, Price MA (1981) The effect of grain feeding on the eating quality of beef from culled cows. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 61, 581–592.
CrossRef |

Hironaka R, Freeze B (1992) ‘Feedlot finishing of cattle.’ Agriculture Canada publication 1591/E. (First printed in 1976). (Agriculture Canada: Ottawa, Canada)

Hutton G, Perillat B, McCartney D, Ohama A (2004) Swath grazing in western Canada: an introduction. Agdex 420/56–2.

IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) (2006) ‘Chapter 10. Emissions from livestock and manure management. Guidelines for national greenhouse inventories. Vol. 4. Agriculture, forestry and other land use. 10.1–10.87.’ Available at http://www.ipcc-nggip.iges.or.jp/public/2006gl/pdf/4_Volume4/V4_10_Ch10_Livestock.pdf [Verified 10 November 2014]

ISO (International Organization for Standardization) (2006) ‘Environmental management, life cycle assessment, principles and framework, Standard 14044.’ (ISO: Geneva, Switzerland)

Janzen HH, Angers DA, Boehm M, Bolinder M, Desjardins RL, Dyer JA, Ellert BH, Gibb DJ, Gregorich EG, Helgason BL, Lemke R, Massé D, McGinn SM, McAllister TA, Newlands N, Pattey E, Rochette P, Smith W, VandenBygaart AJ, Wang H (2006) A proposed approach to estimate and reduce net greenhouse gas emissions from whole farms. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 86, 401–418.
CrossRef | CAS |

Kaliel DA (2004) ‘Insights into managing winter feed costs in Alberta cow/calf operations.’ Available at http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/econ9538/$FILE/winterfeed.pdf [Verified 7 July 2015]

Koneswaran G, Nierenberg D (2008) Global farm animal production and global warming: impacting and mitigating climate change. Environmental Health Perspectives 116, 578–582.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Kulshreshtha S, Mondongo O, Florizone A (2012) Economic impacts of livestock production in Canada: a regional multiplier analysis. Research report prepared for Canfax Research Services, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Calgary, Canada.

Lardner B (2013) Stockpiled perennial forage grazing. Prairie Agriculture Machinery Institute 2013–2014, Annual Report. pp. 27–30. (Saskatchewan, Canada) Available at http://www.wbdc.sk.ca/pdfs/field_days/2013_summer_fieldday/Agenda%20Handout%202013.pdf [Verified 1 December 2014]

Lardner B, Larson K, Pearce L (2011) ‘Swath grazing CDC SO-1 oat and red proso millet with beef cows.’ Fact Sheet #2011-03.1. (Western Beef Development Centre) Available at http://www1.foragebeef.ca/$Foragebeef/frgebeef.nsf/all/frg1/$FILE/swathgrazecdcoat.pdf [Verified 1 December 2014]

LEAP (2015) ‘Environmental performance of large ruminant supply chains: guidelines for assessment.’ Draft for public review. Livestock Environmental Assessment and 2 Performance (LEAP) Partnership. (FAO: Rome)

Lee KCL, Newell JP, Wolch J, Schneider N, Joassart-Marcelli P (2014) ‘Story-networks’ of livestock and climate change: actors, their artifacts, and the shaping of urban print media. Society & Natural Resources: An International Journal 27, 948–963.
CrossRef |

Legesse G, Small JA, Scott SL, Kebreab E, Crow GH, Block HC, Robins CD, Khakbazan M, McCaughey WP (2012) Bioperformance evaluation of various summer pasture and winter feeding strategies for cow-calf production. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 92, 89–102.
CrossRef | CAS |

Little S, Beauchemin K, Janzen H, Kroebel R, Maclean K (2013) ‘Holos: a tool to estimate and reduce greenhouse gases from farms. Methodology and algorithms for versions 2.0.’ (Agriculture and Agri-Food: Ottawa, ON, Canada)

Mathison GW (1993) The beef industry. In ‘Animal production in Canada’. (Eds J Martin, RJ Hudson, BA Young) pp. 35–74. (University of Alberta, Faculty of Extension: Edmonton, Canada)

McCartney D, Basarab JA, Okine EK, Baron VS, Depalme AJ (2004) Alternative fall and winter feeding systems for spring calving beef cows. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 84, 511–522.
CrossRef |

McGeough EJ, Little SM, Janzen HH, McAllister TA, McGinn SM, Beauchemin KA (2012) Life-cycle assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from. dairy production in eastern Canada: a case study. Journal of Dairy Science 95, 5164–5175.
CrossRef | CAS |

McKay RM, Rahnefeld GW, Weiss GM, Fredeen HT, Lawson JE, Newman JA, Bailey DRC (1990) Preweaning performance of calves from first-cross and reciprocal backcross cows. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 70, 35–44.
CrossRef |

Myhre G, Shindell D, Bréon F-M, Collins W, Fuglestvedt J, Huang J, Koch D, Lamarque J-F, Lee D, Mendoza B, Nakajima T, Robock A, Stephens G, Takemura T, Zhang H (2013) Anthropogenic and natural radiative forcing. In ‘Climate change 2013: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’. (Eds TF Stocker, D Qin, G-K Plattner, M Tignor, SK Allen, J Boschung, A Nauels, Y Xia, V Bex, PM Midgley) pp. 660–740. (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK)

Nagy CN (2000) Energy and greenhouse gas emissions coefficients for inputs used in agriculture. Report to the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative.

Newman JA, Rahnefeld GW, Fredeen HT, Weiss GM, Lawson JE, Tong AKW (1994) Post-weaning gain of calves from first-cross and reciprocal back-cross cows. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 74, 613–619.
CrossRef |

Nguyen TLT, Hermansen JE, Mogensen L (2010) Environmental consequences of different beef production systems in the EU. Journal of Cleaner Production 18, 756–766.
CrossRef | CAS |

NRC (1996) (2000 update) ‘Nutrient requirements of beef cattle.’ 7th revised edn. (National Academies Press: Washington, DC)

Pelletier N, Pirog R, Rasmussen R (2010) Comparative life cycle environmental impacts of three beef production strategies in the Upper Midwestern United States. Agricultural Systems 103, 380–389.
CrossRef |

Rahnefeld GW, Weiss GM, Fredeen HT (1990) Milk yield and composition in beef cows and their effect on cow and calf performance in two environments. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 70, 409–423.
CrossRef |

Rahnefeld GW, McKay RM, Weiss GM, Fredeen HT, Newman JA, Lawson JE, Bailey DRC (1991) Reproductive efficiency of F1 and reciprocal backcross beef cows under contrasting environments. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 71, 969–985.
CrossRef |

Ridoutt BG, Page G, Opie K, Huang J, Bellotti W (2014) Carbon, water and land use footprints of beef cattle production systems in southern Australia. Journal of Cleaner Production 73, 24–30.
CrossRef |

Rochette P, Worth DE, Lemke RL, McConkey BG, Pennock DJ, Wagner-Riddle C, Desjardins RL (2008) Estimation of N2O emissions from agricultural soils in Canada. I. Development of a country-specific methodology. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 88, 641–654.
CrossRef | CAS |

Roop DJ, Shrestha DS, Saul DA (2013) Cradle-to-gate life cycle assessment of locally produced beef in the Palouse region of the northwestern US. Transactions of the ASABE 56, 1933–1941.

Rotz CA, Muck RE (1994) Changes in forage quality during harvest and storage. In ‘Forage quality, evaluation, and utilization’. (Eds GC Fahey, M Collins, DR Mertens, LE Moser) pp. 828–868. (American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America: Madison, WI)

Saskatchewan Forage Council (2014) Trace mineral status of Saskatchewan pastures: effect of location, season and forage species. Final report. Saskatchewan Forage Council, Asquith, Canada.

Schaeffer LR, Eriksson JA, Wilton JW (1981) Weighted averages of sire progeny tests for growth traits in record of performance beef herds. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 61, 35–44.
CrossRef |

Sheppard SC, Bittman S, Donohoe G, Flaten D, Wittenberg KM, Small JA, Berthiaume R, McAllister TA, Beauchemin KA, McKinnon J, Amiro BD, MacDonald D, Mattos F, Ominski KH (2015) Beef cattle husbandry practices across ecoregions of Canada in 2011. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 95, 305–321.
CrossRef |

Stackhouse-Lawson KR, Rotz CA, Oltjen JW, Mitloehner FM (2012) Carbon footprint and ammonia emissions of California beef production systems. Journal of Animal Science 90, 4641–4655.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Stanton D, Grombacher AW, Pinnisch R, Mason H, Spaner D (2007) Hybrid and population density affect yield and quality of silage maize in north central Alberta. Canadian Journal of Plant Science 87, 867–871.
CrossRef |

Statistics Canada (2013) ‘2011 farm environmental management survey.’ Survey number 5044. Catalogue no. 21-023-X. (Environment Accounts and Statistics Division: Ottawa, Canada)

Statistics Canada (2014a) Table 003–0032: number of cattle, by class and farm type, annual. CANSIM database, Ottawa, Canada. Available at http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a26?lang=eng&id=30032 [Verified 10 April 2014]

Statistics Canada (2014b) Table 004–0004: census of agriculture, selected livestock and poultry data, Canada and provinces, every 5 years. CANSIM database, Ottawa, Canada. Available at http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a26?lang=eng&id=40004 [Verified 10 April 2014]

Statistics Canada (2014c) Table 004–0203: census of agriculture, land use, every 5 years. CANSIM database, Ottawa, Canada. Available at http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a26?lang=eng&id=40002 [Verified 12 December 2014]

Statistics Canada (2015a) Table 003–0026: cattle and calves, farm and meat production. CANSIM database. Available at http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a26?lang=eng&id=30026 [Verified 25 March 2015]

Statistics Canada (2015b) Table 001-0010: estimated areas, yield, production and average farm price of principal field crops, in metric units. CANSIM database. Available at http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a26?lang=eng&retrLang=eng&id=0010010&&pattern=&stByVal=1&p1=1&p2=-1&tabMode=dataTable&csid [Verified 24 March 2015]

Stewart F (1999) ‘Pasture quality survey: eastern/interlake.’ (Manitoba Agriculture and Food, Food and Rural Initiatives: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)

USDA (2014) ‘Crop production historical track records.’ (USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service: Washington, DC)

Vergé XPC, Dyer JA, Desjardins RL, Worth D (2008) Greenhouse gas emissions from the Canadian beef industry. Agricultural Systems 98, 126–134.
CrossRef |

Weis T (2013) The meat of the global food crisis. The Journal of Peasant Studies 40, 65–85.
CrossRef |

Western Beef Development Centre (2015) ‘Western Canadian cow–calf survey aggregate results.’ (Western Beef Development Centre) Available at http://www.wbdc.sk.ca/pdfs/economics/WCCCS_Summary_Overall_Jun2015.pdf [Verified 24 September 2015]

White RR, Brady M, Capper JL, McNamara JP, Johnson KA (2015) Cow–calf reproductive, genetic, and nutritional management to improve the sustainability of whole beef production systems. Journal of Animal Science 93, 3197–3211.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Wiedemann SG, Henry BK, McGahan EJ, Grant T, Murphy CM, Niethe G (2015) Resource use and greenhouse gas intensity of Australian beef production: 1981–2010. Agricultural Systems 133, 109–118.
CrossRef |

Yungblut D (2012) National forage and grassland assessment. Final report. Prepared by Yungblut & Associates Inc., Guelph, ON.

Subscriber Login


Legal & Privacy | Contact Us | Help


© CSIRO 1996-2016