GHGMP News Releases

Booklet explains basic greenhouse gas, agriculture link

Calgary, Alta., February 16, 2006

A new booklet that explains the basic relationship between Canadian cattle production and greenhouse gas emissions is now available to beef producers and the general public.

The "Greenhouse Gas Sinks and Sources Tour Guide for Canadian Beef Producers" is a very user-friendly, 50-page booklet that lays down the fundamentals of the greenhouse gas issue, says Lee Pengilly, a Saskatchewan rancher, consultant and writer who produced the guide on behalf of the beef sector of the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture (GHGMP).

"For a lot of people, the confusing part is knowing what it is about livestock production that affects greenhouse gas emissions," says Pengilly, who, along with her husband Ben, ranches near Melville, Sask. "What practices contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, and what can I do to change it?"

Production of the Sinks and Sources Tour Guide is one of the projects partially funded by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada's GHGMP. The beef sector of the GHGMP is administered through the Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA). Part of the mandate of the program is to provide education and awareness of greenhouse gas issues. Other participants in the program include the Soil Conservation Council of Canada, the Canadian Pork Council, and the Dairy Farmers of Canada.

A feature report on the Sinks and Sources Tour Guide is available on the CCA website at Go to the Stewardship section and follow the links.

In the Sinks and Sources Tour Guide, Pengilly uses what she describes as "cowboy common sense" to explain in basic language and with humour what is often viewed as the complicated interaction between modern-day agriculture and greenhouse gas emissions.

The guide explains the various cycles - the mineral cycle, energy flow, the forage and grass succession cycle and the water cycle - that are naturally occurring. It describes the greenhouse gas issues and also explains increasingly common terms such as the carbon cycle, methane cycle and nitrous oxide cycle. Carbon, methane and nitrous oxide are three of the most common greenhouse gases related to agricultural activity.

One of the goals of the greenhouse gas mitigation program is to promote practices that reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by growing plants, which must have carbon dioxide and solar energy in order to grow. One of the easiest techniques to do this is to produce more forages and maintain healthy and vigorously growing pastures and hay stands. A portion of the carbon dioxide taken in from the atmosphere by the plants is eventually stored in plant tissue and in the soil.

Another important message throughout the Sinks and Source guide is that practices that improve production efficiency, such as rotational grazing systems, improve feed management and feed quality, and proper nutrient and manure management not only improve ranching profitability but also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"It's a classic win/win situation," says Pengilly. "If you can increase beef gains on less feed, capture more of the nutrient value of manure and improve pasture productivity and quality, it all contributes to improved production and, at the same time, reduces greenhouse gas emissions."

The Guide not only explains the basics but also provides several worksheets so producers can evaluate their current production practices and, in another section of the guide, producers consider changes that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Along with being useful to producers, the guide is also an excellent education tool.

Free copies of the Sinks and Sources Tour Guide are available through provincial beef producer associations and also from the Canadian Cattlemen's Association by calling (403) 275-8558 or online by visiting and making a request under the "contact us" link.

For more information, contact:

Pat Walker, Beef Project Co-ordinator
Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program for Canadian Agriculture
Calgary, Alta.
Phone: (403) 601-8991