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J Anim Sci. 2019 Feb 1;97(2):945-961. doi: 10.1093/jas/sky442.

Carbon and blue water footprints of California sheep production.

Author information

Department of Animal Science, University of California, Davis.
University of California Cooperative Extension, Auburn.
University of California Cooperative Extension, Bakersfield.
Hopland Research & Extension Center, Hopland.


While the environmental impacts of livestock production, such as greenhouse gas emissions and water usage, have been studied for a variety of US livestock production systems, the environmental impact of US sheep production is still unknown. A cradle-to-farm gate life cycle assessment (LCA) was conducted according to international standards (ISO 14040/44), analyzing the impacts of CS representing five different meat sheep production systems in California, and focusing on carbon footprint (carbon dioxide equivalents, CO2e) and irrigated water usage (metric ton, MT). This study is the first to look specifically at the carbon footprint of the California sheep industry and consider both wool and meat production across the diverse sheep production systems within California. This study also explicitly examined the carbon footprint of hair sheep as compared with wooled sheep production. Data were derived from producer interviews and literature values, and California-specific emission factors were used wherever possible. Flock outputs studied included market lamb meat, breeding stock, 2-d-old lambs, cull adult meat, and wool. Four different methane prediction models were examined, including the current IPCC tier 1 and 2 equations, and an additional sensitivity analysis was conducted to examine the effect of a fixed vs. flexible coefficient of gain (kg) in mature ewes on carbon footprint per ewe. Mass, economic, and protein mass allocation were used to examine the impact of allocation method on carbon footprint and water usage, while sensitivity analyses were used to examine the impact of ewe replacement rate (% of ewe flock per year) and lamb crop (lambs born per ewe bred) on carbon footprint per kilogram market lamb. The carbon footprint of market lamb production ranged from 13.9 to 30.6 kg CO2e/kg market lamb production on a mass basis, 10.4 to 18.1 kg CO2e/kg market lamb on an economic basis, and 6.6 to 10.1 kg CO2e/kg market lamb on a protein mass basis. Enteric methane (CH4) production was the largest single source of emissions for all CS, averaging 72% of total emissions. Emissions from feed production averaged 22% in total, primarily from manure emissions credited to feed. Whole-ranch water usage ranged from 2.1 to 44.8 MT/kg market lamb, almost entirely from feed production. Overall results were in agreement with those from meat-focused sheep systems in the United Kingdom as well as beef raised under similar conditions in California.

[Available on 2020-02-01]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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