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Article

Organic Farming as a Strategy to Reduce Carbon Footprint in Dehesa Agroecosystems: A Case Study Comparing Different Livestock Products

1
Department of Animal Production and Food Science, School of Agricultural Engineering, University of Extremadura, Avda. Adolfo Suarez, s/n, 06007 Badajoz, Spain
2
Department of Animal Production and Food Science, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Extremadura, Campus Universitario, 10003 Caceres, Spain
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(1), 162; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10010162
Received: 5 December 2019 / Revised: 14 January 2020 / Accepted: 15 January 2020 / Published: 17 January 2020
This paper attempts to analyze the impact of organic livestock farming in dehesas through the analysis and review of the carbon footprint of seven extensive organic farming systems in various dehesas in the southwest of Spain. The method used was life cycle assessment, taking into account both greenhouse emissions and carbon sequestration. Greenhouse emissions estimated are those derived from livestock digestion, manure management, soil management, and off-farm inputs (feeding, fuels, and electricity). Carbon sequestration calculations consider carbon fixation due to pasture and crop waste and carbon fixation in soil due to manure fertilization. The farms under study represent all the species bred in the farms and all the habitual farming systems existing in dehesas, with the following types being under analysis: beef cattle, sheep for meat, Iberian pigs, and dairy goats. The emissions identified in the farms under study have been found to be lower than those from conventional farms, with values of 16.27 and 10.43 kg CO2eq/kg of live weight for beef cattle, 13.24 and 11.42 kg CO2eq/kg of live weight for sheep, 1.19 kg CO2eq/kg of milk for goats, and 4.16 and 2.94 kg CO2eq/kg of live weight for pigs. The levels of carbon sequestration are also noticeably higher, with compensation being up to 89% in meat producing ruminants’ farms, 100% in dairy goats’ farms, and values compensating the total emissions in the case of Iberian montanera pig farms.
This study employs life cycle assessment (LCA) for the calculation of the balance (emissions minus sequestration) of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the organic livestock production systems of dehesas in the southwest region of Spain. European organic production standards regulate these systems. As well as calculating the system’s emissions, this method also takes into account the soil carbon sequestration values. In this sense, the study of carbon sequestration in organic systems is of great interest from a legislation viewpoint. The results reveal that the farms producing meat cattle with calves sold at weaning age provide the highest levels of carbon footprint (16.27 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq)/kg of live weight), whereas the farms with the lowest levels of carbon emissions are montanera pig and semi-extensive dairy goat farms, i.e., 4.16 and 2.94 kg CO2eq/kg of live weight and 1.19 CO2eq/kg of fat and protein corrected milk (FPCM), respectively. Enteric fermentation represents 42.8% and 79.9% of the total emissions of ruminants’ farms. However, in pig farms, the highest percentage of the emissions derives from manure management (36.5%–42.9%) and animal feed (31%–37.7%). The soil sequestration level has been seen to range between 419.7 and 576.4 kg CO2eq/ha/year, which represents a considerable compensation of carbon emissions. It should be noted that these systems cannot be compared with other more intensive systems in terms of product units and therefore, the carbon footprint values of dehesa organic systems must always be associated to the territory. View Full-Text
Keywords: organic livestock; extensive management; carbon footprint; life cycle assessment; carbon sequestration; dehesa organic livestock; extensive management; carbon footprint; life cycle assessment; carbon sequestration; dehesa
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MDPI and ACS Style

Horrillo, A.; Gaspar, P.; Escribano, M. Organic Farming as a Strategy to Reduce Carbon Footprint in Dehesa Agroecosystems: A Case Study Comparing Different Livestock Products. Animals 2020, 10, 162. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10010162

AMA Style

Horrillo A, Gaspar P, Escribano M. Organic Farming as a Strategy to Reduce Carbon Footprint in Dehesa Agroecosystems: A Case Study Comparing Different Livestock Products. Animals. 2020; 10(1):162. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10010162

Chicago/Turabian Style

Horrillo, Andrés, Paula Gaspar, and Miguel Escribano. 2020. "Organic Farming as a Strategy to Reduce Carbon Footprint in Dehesa Agroecosystems: A Case Study Comparing Different Livestock Products" Animals 10, no. 1: 162. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10010162

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