Significant reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can be achieved through improvement of management practices in dairy farming, a new report has highlighted today (Friday, December 8).

These can include elective breeding, rumen manipulation, vaccines and adopting a dietary strategy.

Overall there is also growing evidence that addressing specific diseases and health conditions in livestock can play a crucial role in reducing GHG emissions.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations today launched its Pathways Towards Lower Emissions report, at the 28th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP28).

According to the FAO, livestock play a “vital role” in providing essential nutrition and supporting the livelihoods of families across the globe.

But it has also stressed that if not managed properly, livestock systems can have “negative impacts” on the environment, with GHG emissions generated throughout the production chain contributing to global warming.

Livestock sector

The FAO believes that one of the key challenges that the livestock sector now needs to address is how to “narrow efficiency gaps, while ensuring an increased global supply of animal products from meat, milk, and eggs”.

FAO deputy director general, Maria Helena Semedo said: “Beyond evaluating baseline emissions, this report offers estimations of future emissions under scenarios of increased production, and outlines pathways to reduce emissions through the application of well established best practices in animal management.

“It clearly demonstrates that ambitious and innovative programmes, and wide ranging interventions have the potential to bend the emissions curve while production grows."

GHG Emissions

The report – which is subject to a double-blind peer review process involving world experts – also outlined several pathways impacting both the supply and demand sides for livestock sectors, which could address the environmental impacts and promote sustainability.

However, the FAO also noted that there is “no universal solution”, and more work is needed to understand the barriers to implementing and upscaling various interventions.

It identified that “enhancing productivity and production efficiency across the entire value chain” is the most promising way to mitigate and reduce livestock emissions.

The FAO’s deputy director general added: “Solutions such as improving animal health, breeding practices, reducing food loss and waste, and directly targeting GHG emissions have the potential to provide multiple benefits for people and the planet, but they require investments in the sector to narrow efficiency gaps, while meeting an increased global demand for animal protein.”