‘Cattle should be considered part of the solution to global warming’

Recent years have seen ruminant livestock targeted by many scientists as key contributors to global warming, as a result of their gaseous emissions.

Methane, for example, produced by the rumination process, is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

However, delegates attending the recent World Meat Congress in Uruguay, were given a different perspective entirely on how cattle and grazing techniques can actually ameliorate the impact of global warming. The views were expressed by Alan Savory, courtesy of his presentation to the event.

A native of Zimbabwe, Savory has spent the last 50 years studying the causes of desertification around the world. In 2009, he set up the Savory Institute in Colorado.

This centre is one of 11 finalists in the Virgin Earth Challenge, a US$25m initiative for the successful commercialisation of ways to capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and keep them out without any compensatory impact.

He said that land is desperate for animals, adding that it is actually the opposite of the concept that is being used to explain global warming.

“In other words, livestock are not the problem but the solution.”

According to his vision, based on studies and years of experience, it is guaranteed that if we graze livestock on grasslands these will recover.

We need to take the animals to the grasslands. The earth needs animals.

“The hooves of the animals break up the crust of algae that forms on bare soil in dry areas. Breaking it up encourages the growth of grass.

“By trampling vegetation and coating it with manure, the livestock produce a mulch that ensures the soil absorbs and retains more water.”

Savory added that countries like Uruguay in which extensive pastures abound could easily double their beef output by adopting more efficient grazing techniques.