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Article

Improve Pasture or Feed Grain? Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Profitability, and Resource Use for Nelore Beef Cattle in Brazil’s Cerrado and Amazon Biomes

1
AgriSciences, Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso, Sinop, MT 78555-267, Brazil
2
Faculty Associate, School of Economics, The University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, USA
3
Dairy Cattle Research Lab, Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso, Sinop, MT 78555-267, Brazil
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(8), 1386; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10081386
Received: 23 May 2020 / Revised: 28 July 2020 / Accepted: 29 July 2020 / Published: 10 August 2020
Deforested areas in Brazil’s Amazon and Cerrado savannah have historically transitioned to pasture for grazing tropical beef cattle. Brazil’s projected growth in beef exports emphasizes the importance of sustainably intensifying Brazil’s cattle industry on existing agricultural land without increasing deforestation nor accelerating land conversion. We adapted a widely used simulation model for cattle, pasture, and crops to closely match two cooperating beef farms, one in the Cerrado and one in the Amazon. We then simulated the adoption of pasture fertilization, pasture re-seeding, and pasture-based grain supplementation of cattle by a model beef farm. These three sustainable agricultural intensification strategies were compared to extensive cattle grazing, the status quo in Brazil. Beef productivity and economic returns were greater for grain supplementation, followed by pasture fertilization and pasture re-seeding. Grain supplementation had the lowest greenhouse gas emissions, with less energy and nitrogen use compared to extensive grazing, as measured as a “footprint” for every unit of beef body weight produced. Pasture re-seeding and fertilization had lower greenhouse gas footprints compared to extensive; however, water and energy use and nitrogen losses were greater. Grain supplementation used more human edible livestock feed than other strategies, so pasture intensification could increase future human food availability.
Economic development, international food and feed demand, and government policies have converted Brazil’s natural ecosystems into agricultural land. The Integrated Farm System Model (IFSM) was evaluated using production, economic, and weather data collected on two cooperating farms in the Legal Amazon and Cerrado biomes in the Midwest state of Mato Grosso, Brazil. Three sustainable agricultural intensification strategies, namely grain supplementation, pasture re-seeding, and pasture fertilization were simulated in IFSM with double the beef cattle stocking density compared to extensive grazing. Livestock dry matter consumption simulated in IFSM was similar for pasture grazing estimates and actual feed consumed by beef cattle on the two collaborating farms. Grain supplementation best balanced beef production and profitability with lower carbon footprint compared to extensive grazing, followed by pasture fertilization and pasture re-seeding. However, pasture re-seeding and fertilization had greater use of water and energy and more nitrogen losses. Human edible livestock feed use was greatest for grain supplementation compared to other modeled systems. While grain supplementation appears more favorable economically and environmentally, greater use of human edible livestock feed may compete with future human food needs. Pasture intensification had greater human edible feed conversion efficiency, but its greater natural resource use may be challenging. View Full-Text
Keywords: agriculture; Amazon; beef cattle; Cerrado; environmental impacts; sustainable agricultural intensification; carbon footprint agriculture; Amazon; beef cattle; Cerrado; environmental impacts; sustainable agricultural intensification; carbon footprint
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MDPI and ACS Style

Molossi, L.; Hoshide, A.K.; Pedrosa, L.M.; Oliveira, A.S.d.; Abreu, D.C.d. Improve Pasture or Feed Grain? Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Profitability, and Resource Use for Nelore Beef Cattle in Brazil’s Cerrado and Amazon Biomes. Animals 2020, 10, 1386. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10081386

AMA Style

Molossi L, Hoshide AK, Pedrosa LM, Oliveira ASd, Abreu DCd. Improve Pasture or Feed Grain? Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Profitability, and Resource Use for Nelore Beef Cattle in Brazil’s Cerrado and Amazon Biomes. Animals. 2020; 10(8):1386. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10081386

Chicago/Turabian Style

Molossi, Luana, Aaron K. Hoshide, Lorena M. Pedrosa, André S.d. Oliveira, and Daniel C.d. Abreu 2020. "Improve Pasture or Feed Grain? Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Profitability, and Resource Use for Nelore Beef Cattle in Brazil’s Cerrado and Amazon Biomes" Animals 10, no. 8: 1386. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10081386

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