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Livestock, a Potential Victim and Cause of Climate Change

Livestock, a Potential Victim and Cause of Climate Change

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Published by Navas Stha
Climate change is today’s immense problem confronted by every living creature of the earth. Human beings, no doubt, are primarily responsible for this devastating effect. However, animals and/or their byproducts too are directly or indirectly linked to this change. Livestock, primarily cattle, buffalo, poultry and pigs are also one of the most significant contributors to today’s serious environment problems.
Climate change is today’s immense problem confronted by every living creature of the earth. Human beings, no doubt, are primarily responsible for this devastating effect. However, animals and/or their byproducts too are directly or indirectly linked to this change. Livestock, primarily cattle, buffalo, poultry and pigs are also one of the most significant contributors to today’s serious environment problems.

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Published by: Navas Stha on Jan 26, 2013
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Livestock, a Potential Victim and Cause of Climate Change
Nabaraj Shrestha, Yugal Raj Bindari, Kopila ShresthaLivestock, a cause of climate change
Climate change is today’s immense problem confronted by every living creature of the earth. Human beings, no doubt, are primarily responsible for this devastatingeffect. However, animals and/or their byproducts too are directly or indirectly linkedto this change. Livestock, primarily cattle, buffalo, poultry and pigs are also one of themost significant contributors to today’s serious environment problems.
 Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options
–Food and AgricultureOrganization of the United Nations FAO, 2006, highlighted the substantial role of thefarm animal production sector. Identifying it as “a major threat to the environment”,the FAO found that the animal agriculture sector emits 18%, or nearly one-fifth, of human-induced Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, including;
-
9% of global carbondioxide (CO
2
) emissions- chiefly due tofertilizer production, feed transport, animal product processing, etc.
-
35-40% of global methane (NH
3
) emissions – chiefly due toenteric fermentation and manure.
-
64% of global nitrous oxide (N
2
O) emissions – chiefly due tofertilizer useThese levels will continue to rise as animal numbers grow to meet the escalatingdemands for meat and milk from developing countries. Agricultural emissions of nitrous oxide from manure and the production of artificial fertilizers are projected toincrease by 35-60% by 2030. Some developing regions will have very large increasesincluding parts of East Asia with an increase of 135% from enteric fermentation and86% for manure management. Deforestation for animal production accounts for 89.5% of all CO
2
livestock related emission and 34% of NH3 and N
2
O emissions.According to FAOSTAT (FAO, 2008), globally, approximately 56 billion landanimals are reared and slaughtered for human consumption annually, and livestock inventories are expected to double by 2050, with most increases occurring in thedeveloping world. As the numbers of farm animals reared for meat, egg, and dairy production rise, so do their GHG emissions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA, 2004) has noted that GHG emissions from livestock are inherently tied tolivestock population sizes because the livestock are either directly or indirectly thesource for the emissions.
Livestock, a victim of climate change
Animals/livestock are intrinsically dependent on the environment, and anyfluctuations in weather and climate can affect them. All animals do have a range of ambient environment temperatures termed the thermo neutral zone. This is the rangeof temperatures that are conducive to health and performance. The increase insurrounding temperature resulting of climate change causes heat stress to everylivestock.
 
Changes occur in animals as a result of heat stress:1.Animals will activate mechanism in an attempt to dissipate the excess heat andmaintain the body temperature. The increased respiration rate is an example.The maintenance energy requirement may increase by 20-30% in animalsunder heat stress. This increases the intake energy available for productivefunctions such as milk production. Blood flow to the skin will increase in anattempt to dissipate heat. At the same time, blood flow to the core of the bodywill decrease.
2.
An increased loss of sodium and potassium is usually associated with heatstress. This is due to losses associated with the increased respiration rate. Thiscan shift acid base balance and the result is metabolic alkalosis.3.Dry matter intake decreases in dairy animals subjected to heat stress. Thisdepression in dry matter intake can be either short term or long termdepending on the length and duration of heat stress. Decreases of 10-20 % arecommon in commercial dairy herds.4.There is normally a decrease in milk production for cows under heat stress.This decrease in milk production can range from 10 to >25%.
5.
Heat stress has also been reported to decrease reproductive performance inlivestock. There are several changes in reproductive performance that have been reported. These include;- Decreased length and intensity of estrus period- Decreased in conception –fertility- rate- Decreased in growth, size and development of ovarian follicles- Increased risk of early embryonic death- Decreased fetal growth and fetal sizeOther intensive animals such as pigs are also susceptible to heat stress such as,reduced feed intake, reduced fertility levels, decreased activity and in the worst cases,increased mortality.Besides, poultry production is highly affected by increase in temperature. It reducesthe ability of poultry birds to feed properly which lead to loss of body weight, high body temperature thereby reducing the rate of growth of poultry birds. Hightemperature also has its effects on egg production in terms of quality and quantity.According to Charles -1980-, feed intake of a laying bird decrease by 1.5 gm a day for every degree rise in temperature. Similarly, decrease of one egg per bird in a year for every degree rise in temperature. Due to the heat stress, it causes increase in water intake and as a result of this it reduces the shell thickness of egg.The climate change also affects on spread and emergence of animal diseases. Warmer and wetter weather will increase the risk and occurrence of animal diseases, as certainspecies who serve as disease vectors, such as biting flies and ticks, are more likely tosurvive year-round. Certain existing parasitic diseases may also become more

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