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Former UN Chief Scientist Says Cattle Key to Environmental Management

Recent insights shared by Professor Jacqueline McGlade, a former United Nations chief scientist, highlight the key role cattle play in managing the environment and mitigating climate change.

In a recent article on Beef Central, former Professor McGlade emphasized the potential of grazing to address climate change. With her expertise as a cattle producer in Kenya and co-founder of Downforce Technologies, Professor McGlade sheds light on the positive impact of livestock production on sustainable land management.

Cattle’s Essential Contribution to Land Stewardship

According to Professor McGlade, the absence of cattle from the land would result in land degradation, invasive pest encroachment, and the loss of a natural source of manure. She says the cattle industry in her native Australia is crucial to land management.

“If cattle were not on the ground, a lot of land in Australia would deteriorate, you would have invasive pests coming in, and you would not have a natural source of manure,” she said. “As the chief scientist I used to think about where you could have the most impact and the Australian beef industry is unique in that sense because it so big and so intensively looked after.”

These statements underscore the critical role that cattle play in maintaining healthy ecosystems and preserving the natural balance of the environment. From ground aeration caused by hoof movement to manure deposits that enrich the soil to grazing patterns that facilitate wildlife habitat, cattle play a valuable role in grassland health, which in turn results in climate change mitigation.

Grazing Mitigates Climate Change by Storing Soil Carbon

Professor McGlade highlights how grassland management can contribute to climate change mitigation efforts. The beef industry produces a critical nutrient-dense food using only the natural process of photosynthesis through grazing, and sequestering soil carbon in the process.

“If you can change the amount of carbon that goes into the soil, you will change the landscape and keep feeding a lot of people—just doing it in a way that is not detrimental to the environment,” Professor McGlade said.

“Having healthy cows on healthy pasture is key to the whole concept and will maintain a completely different landscape to what you would see without them. I see cattle as being instrumental to the change we need for the climate. Even in the more intensive parts of the industry, I think when it is done well cattle are a vital part of the landscape.”

The Beef Industry: A Key Player in Sustainable Land Management & Landscape Preservation

Drawing on her experiences in Kenya, Professor McGlade notes that attempts to remove livestock from certain areas have proven unsuccessful. Over thousands of years, cattle, wildlife, and human populations have coexisted, resulting in diverse and thriving savannas.

She emphasizes the role of livestock in preserving biodiversity and maintaining healthy ecosystems and praises the Australian beef industry for its substantial commitment to intensive land care practices.

Understanding Natural Capital

Professor McGlade’s work at Downforce Technologies focuses on leveraging satellite technology to measure and manage natural capital assets. Natural capital refers to the registry of various land aspects, such as biodiversity, water, and soil, and their interaction with livestock and crops. By comprehensively understanding these factors, producers can make informed decisions about land management practices.

Professor McGlade states, “We can look at changes over time, whether it is the soils, cropping, pasture, vegetation, we can pick up on all those signals and understand how that land behaves.”

This approach enables sustainable agricultural practices that support both productivity and environmental conservation.

Professor McGlade’s insights highlight the indispensable role of cattle in managing the environment and combating climate change. As we strive for sustainable land management, it is essential to recognize the positive contributions of livestock to ecosystem preservation. By embracing responsible cattle management practices, we can ensure a harmonious balance between agriculture, biodiversity, and environmental stewardship.

At Ranch Vision, we are passionate about empowering ranchers to communicate the positive impact their operations have on the natural environment. Learn more about our climate storage calculator and ranch management software.

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