Journal of animal science

Special topics--Mitigation of methane and nitrous oxide emissions from animal operations: III. A review of animal management mitigation options.

PMID 24045470


The goal of this review was to analyze published data on animal management practices that mitigate enteric methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from animal operations. Increasing animal productivity can be a very effective strategy for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per unit of livestock product. Improving the genetic potential of animals through planned cross-breeding or selection within breeds and achieving this genetic potential through proper nutrition and improvements in reproductive efficiency, animal health, and reproductive lifespan are effective approaches for improving animal productivity and reducing GHG emission intensity. In subsistence production systems, reduction of herd size would increase feed availability and productivity of individual animals and the total herd, thus lowering CH4 emission intensity. In these systems, improving the nutritive value of low-quality feeds for ruminant diets can have a considerable benefit on herd productivity while keeping the herd CH4 output constant or even decreasing it. Residual feed intake may be a tool for screening animals that are low CH4 emitters, but there is currently insufficient evidence that low residual feed intake animals have a lower CH4 yield per unit of feed intake or animal product. Reducing age at slaughter of finished cattle and the number of days that animals are on feed in the feedlot can significantly reduce GHG emissions in beef and other meat animal production systems. Improved animal health and reduced mortality and morbidity are expected to increase herd productivity and reduce GHG emission intensity in all livestock production systems. Pursuing a suite of intensive and extensive reproductive management technologies provides a significant opportunity to reduce GHG emissions. Recommended approaches will differ by region and species but should target increasing conception rates in dairy, beef, and buffalo, increasing fecundity in swine and small ruminants, and reducing embryo wastage in all species. Interactions among individual components of livestock production systems are complex but must be considered when recommending GHG mitigation practices.