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FFL-JA-Forskningsmidlene for jordbruk og matindustri

Animal health and pasture carbon dynamics in sustainability assessment of ruminant production systems

Alternative title: Betydningen av dyrehelse og karbonlagring i beiter for bærekraft i norske drøvtyggerproduksjoner

Awarded: NOK 4.6 mill.

The climate and topography make most of the arable land (67 pct) in Norway best suited for grass production. In addition, large areas are available in the outfields, traditionally utilised for grazing. Ruminants still have an important role for food security in Norway. The agricultural sector has signed a contract with the Government to reduce GHG-emissions towards 2030. SUSCOW is a cooperation between NMBU, other research institutions and agricultural industry partners. The project has to main parts; the importance of animal health status, and of C-sequestration in grassland and outfields to reduce GHG-emissions. The project will quantify the relationship between cattle health incidents in cattle and milk/beef production, to be further used in LCA and whole-farm models to calculate the effects of variable herd health status on the environment. Evaluation of system boundaries and extraction of health data from herd recording systems is in progress. Assessment of ecosystem storage of carbon in permanent pastures and outfields used for grazing will be performed across different climatic regions in Norway (WP3). Field work was conducted during summer 2021. Soil was sampled from 12 outfield locations used in suckler cow beef production systems with varying productivity. At selected locations, soil sampling was also conducted in outfields not used for grazing and cultivated pastures within the same plant community/parent material. At each location/land category, five plots were randomly selected for soil sampling at depth intervals of 0-10, 10-20 and 20-30 cm. A MSc student is working with this topic. All activities in WP3 are ahead of the timeline. Field work in WP4 (examine relationships between biodiversity, feed quality, and C storage as affected by long-term sheep grazing in alpine pastures) is moved to 2022. The process for recruiting a post doc has started. Results from this project will be made available for the agricultural industry if successful.

SUSCOW aims to contribute to a sustainable ruminant production based on national resources in Norway by documenting the importance of animal health on environmental impacts in ruminant production systems, using whole-farm models and life cycle assessment methodology. Norway has harmonized the climate policy with the EU, which includes reduction of GHG emissions from the agricultural sector. Currently, the agricultural sector accounts for 8.7 pct of the national GHG emissions. At the same time, the ambition is to increase future domestic food production based on national resources. However, the agricultural land area is very modest, with areas for grain production limited by climate and topography. Most of the agriculture area (67 pct) is cultivated grass production, of which 24 pct is not arable infield pastures. In addition, large areas (140 000 square km) are available in the outfields (i.e. vegetation in the forests and mountains) only available by grazing livestock. In this aspect, ruminants have an important role in the Norwegian food production system. To reduce the environmental impacts of ruminant production systems, animal health and soil carbon sequestration are two important aspects that will be studied in this project. Improved animal health has been proposed as an effective mitigation option but has not received much attention in research, and the knowledge base is incomplete. Animal health data will be linked with production level of milk and beef and the corresponding environmental effects. To increase the knowledge of net emissions from ruminant production systems utilising permanent pastures and outfields, the project will investigate soil carbon stocks in permanent infield pastures and outfields at different geographical locations. Results from this will serve as basis to calibrate the ICBM model, which in turn may be implemented by the agricultural industry.

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FFL-JA-Forskningsmidlene for jordbruk og matindustri