ASUNCION: Rotating cattle to keep the grass long, synching cows’ pregnancies and improving bovine diet are just some of the tactics Uruguayan farmers are using to mitigate the impact of cattle on climate change.
There are four cows for each person in Uruguay, the South American country of 3.4 million people, where agriculture accounts for 75 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
A large part of that comes from the methane emitted by cattle, meaning Uruguay has no choice, but to focus on livestock if it wants to combat global warming.
Cattle methane, which accounts for 62 percent of emissions, “weighs heavily on climate change,” said Cecilia Jones, the livestock ministry’s coordinator on the issue.
Looking out across a group of 20 cows at a farm in the southeastern Lavalleja department, Rosa Correa remarked that “all these need to get pregnant.”
Her farm is one of 62 taking part in a livestock and climate initiative launched by Uruguay in 2020 to help reduce direct and indirect emissions, sequester carbon in the soil and reverse land deterioration.
The program, made possible with help from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and funding from the Global Environment Facility, is meant to increase productivity “through smart climate practices,” Soldeda Bergos, the initiative’s coordinator, told Agence France-Presse.
Synchronizing mating and pregnancies as well as the weaning of calves are some of the practices that Correa, 56, and her husband, Alejandro Rodriguez, 55, began implementing based on advice from the FAO.
It’s “one of the ways to increase productivity in a sustainable way,” said Correa, since more kilograms (pounds) of meat are produced when more calves can be birthed from the same herd.
The couple and their two daughters manage an 800-hectare farm that has been in the family for 35 years. “In Uruguay, livestock has been the mainstay of agriculture for 400 years, and it’s mainly produced on natural fields,” said Bergos.
Uruguay has little industry and so relies heavily on its meat exports, particularly beef, with more than 2.2 million cattle slaughtered in 2019, according to the national meat institute.
The country exported more than 330,000 tons of beef that year, worth more than $1.8 billion and representing 83.4 percent of the country’s meat exports.