Calgary (Rural Roots Canada) – “Cows are the How of dealing with climate warming.”

Elanco CEO Jeff Simmons is not shy when talking about the difference livestock, particularly cattle, can make in dealing with climate change.

He says farmers and the agriculture industry have an opportunity in front of them to continue to improve their carbon footprint while building their financial sustainability.

That opportunity is methane.

“It’s all about temperature. Methane lasts about a decade in the atmosphere, but it’s 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat – so smaller reductions create a greater impact on temperature.”

Statistics say methane makes up 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions globally, and about one-third of that is linked to animals.

Simmons says a 20 to 30 per cent reduction in enteric methane emissions would make a difference.

“Livestock can help reduce climate warming, improve air quality, and protect water quality.”

He says beef and dairy can help that happen in the here and now.

“You want impact? Beef and dairy can be climate-neutral in one to two decades. They sit at the intersection of nourishing the world and reducing climate warming.”

READ MORE: Cattle management can help Canada’s Prairie grasslands

On the right track

Empowering producers to nourish the world better is equally important in what they do at Elanco.

The company points out on their website that 60 per cent of people are getting the wrong nutrition, according to the World Health Organization and Action Against Hunger.

He says with the growing demand for protein, producers are going to need assistance to continue to reduce their carbon footprint and ensure.

Currently, 300 million metric tonnes of protein is consumed annually, and that’s expected to climb to 90 million metric tonnes within the next ten years.

“If our producers are going to meet the increased protein demand, they will need our help to give them better resources.”

Elanco CEO Jeff Simmons

Balancing that with reducing carbon footprint is a daunting task, however, Simmons is confident that producers will be able to accomplish this in under two decades because they have already been working in that direction for decades.

He points to statistics from the Canadian Cattle Association (CCA) that show producers are on the right track.

“As the original stewards of the land, our producers are already considering sustainable practices in all that they do.”

According to the CCA, compared to 30 years ago, Canadian beef uses 17 per cent less water, 24 per cent less land and produces 15 per cent less greenhouse gases (GHGs).

He says these stats are further supported by the fact the Canadian dairy industry reduced its carbon footprint by 25 per cent between 1990 and 2020.

Seizing the opportunity

According to Simmons, ag carbon credits only comprise about one per cent of all carbon credits being issued, meaning there is a massive opportunity for farmers to seize the opportunity on their operations.

He says this will soon change as innovations to reduce livestock enteric methane emissions are poised to grow this market segment.

“This represents a crucial opportunity to provide farmers economic incentives for on-farm sustainability efforts and channel private finance toward much-needed climate solutions.”

With the voluntary carbon market expected to go from 2 billion dollars in 2020 to $10 – $40 billion by 2030, the time is now to hop on the train and get things rolling.

He believes farmers looking to get a start on seizing the opportunity should start with analytics, particularly measuring methane emissions on their farms.

“Measuring leads to monetization.”

He adds there remains a significant gap between farmers and ranchers at the individual operation level and where the opportunity lies.

There are tools out there, like the one Elanco has that can identify key drivers of an operation’s footprint, which provides producers with a baseline of their current stewardship efforts and facilitates continuous measurement through data and technical consulting.

Simmons says establishing a baseline and tracking progress is the first step to certification and monetization of carbon reduction.

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Building trust

Building bridges between agriculture and consumers is a daunting task.

Simmons says the time of blaming livestock and cattle in particular as one of the leading causes of climate warming and threatening the sustainability of our planet needs to end.

An Elanco study says one in ten adults who avoid meat think livestock operations create 75 to 100 per cent of annual greenhouse gas emissions, when the number is closer to six per cent.

“It’s beyond time to stop the blame game and start talking about tangible solutions to make a difference. We have to shift the conversation from cows as the culprit to cows as part of the solution when it comes to climate change.”

Innovative solutions

Feed additives are one of the tools that can help combat climate change.

Rumensin and Experior are two products that Elanco says make a difference.

Simmons says their current portfolio reduces cattle emissions by 11 per cent with a goal to expand it to reduce cattle emissions by 40 to 50 per cent.

“For farmers that have existing sustainability practices – such as digesters – on their operation, this could help them reach climate neutrality.”

Elanco have also secured the exclusive U.S. licensing rights to develop, manufacture and commercialize Bovaer for beef and dairy cattle, a first-in-class methane-reducing product for beef and dairy cattle approved in Europe, Brazil, Chile and Australia.

As Simmons has pointed out, farmers are stewards of the land who continue to work to improve the environment, but they need support as the demand for nourishing protein continues to grow.

The most important thing for people to remember is that ‘cows are the how’ when combatting climate warming.