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Holistic analysis of GHG emissions from Irish livestock production systems

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Paper number  054036,  2005 ASAE Annual Meeting . (doi: 10.13031/2013.19478) @2005
Authors:   Casey, John W., Holden, Nicholas M.
Keywords:   Life cycle assessment, Livestock production systems, greenhouse gases, climate change

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from livestock production systems arise both directly on farm and indirectly from bought-in product. Ireland is an unusual country with respect to GHG emissions because it has a small human population and a large farm animal population, giving rise to a large per capita emission. Any attempt to manage the emissions from the major sources on farm should be assessed in terms of whether the emissions burden is reduced or simply transferred to another part of the production system. Life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology offers a framework for systems analysis and was applied to livestock production systems to quantify emissions holistically. The average emission calculated for the dairy system was 1.5 kg CO2 eq. kg ECM. The main contributors were: enteric fermentation (49 %), fertiliser (22 %), concentrates (13%), dung management (11 %) and diesel/electricity (5 %). The average emission recorded for the beef system was 11.9 kg CO2 kg LW yr-1 and for the sheep system was 10.0 kg CO2 kg LW yr-1. Analysis revealed that the whole system has to be considered in order to identify legitimate reduction strategies, and that having considered the larger emission contributors it is important to examine the smaller ones for amplifying and attenuating effects. The use of LCA methodology for this work has proven advantageous for estimating the potential effects of changing management to attain reductions in GHG emissions from the average dairy, suckler-beef and sheep production systems in Ireland.

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