Research by Alltech and Archbold has confirmed the environmental benefits of grazing ruminants.

The two organistions formed a strategic research alliance in 2019 to jointly develop beef management approaches, specifically to increase the quality and quantity of beef produced in subtropical regions while maintaining and enhancing the environment.

The Archbold–Alltech Alliance brought together scientists from two different disciplines – ecologists from Archbold and ruminant nutritionists from Alltech – to understand the impact that cattle production at Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch has on the ecosystem and the ability to sequester carbon.

Over the past five years, the research alliance has created a model for estimating the ranch’s carbon footprint.

The results show that on average, Buck Island Ranch sequesters more carbon each year than it emits. It is a net-carbon sink according to the research.

Grazing ruminants

This research indicates that grazing ruminant animals on land benefits the environment and improves carbon cycling.

According to the alliance, the results confirm that carbon-neutral, and even net-positive, beef production is possible at Buck Island Ranch, a 10,500ac ranch in Lake Placid, Florida, and that same potential likely extends to environments around the world.

To showcase the work taking place at the Buck Island Ranch, the Archbold-Alltech Alliance has released a six-part video series that explores the cattle grazing carbon cycle, the role of carbon sequestration in mitigating climate change, and other insights.

Dr. Mark Lyons, president and CEO of Alltech said: “This research alliance brings together scientists from several disciplines to collaborate on climate-change solutions and demonstrate agriculture’s great potential to positively shape the future of our planet.

“These exciting findings at Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch prove that we capture more carbon when cows are grazing the land. That is profoundly powerful.”

Dr. Betsey Boughton, director of agroecology at Archbold added: “Every year, we sequester 1,201t of CO2 equivalent [CO2e] at Archbold’s Buck Island Ranch and all of this work is scalable to other parts of the world.

“The narrative people have heard is that cows are bad for the environment, but grazing animals can actually change the function of grasslands.

“Cows are eating the grass and not allowing as much decomposition to happen on the ground. Without cows, we actually see more carbon emitted.

“We’re trying to let people know that it is not just this black and white answer. It is complicated, and we need to think about the whole story,” she added.

Climate change

Though it is a complex issue, the research has shown that agriculture can be one of the most powerful weapons in the fight against climate change, according to the research alliance.

Alltech has stated that the collaboration has discovered a deeper understanding of the grazing-cattle carbon cycle, one that is not solely focused on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the animal, but also on natural GHG emissions from the land and the sequestration of carbon in the soil.

Discussions around GHGs and global warming often centre around agriculture emissions, but it is important to think beyond emissions and look at the full cycle, the company stated.

The soil’s ability to sequester carbon is a critical part of the story according to the research alliance.

Alltech Crop Science and Ideagro, which joined the Alltech group of companies in 2023, are studying how microbial populations can enrich soil chemistry and nutrient density, leading to increased carbon sequestration in the soil.

The potential to capture carbon in the soil presents a significant opportunity for the agri-food community to embrace its critical role in combatting climate change while simultaneously improving soil health, boosting crop yields and promoting biodiversity, the group has said.