Greenhouse gas mitigation and offset options for suckler cow farms: an economic comparison for the Swiss case

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We assessed the economic suitability of 4 greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation options and one GHG offset option for an improvement of the GHG balance of a representative Swiss suckler cow farm housing 35 Livestock units and cultivating 25 ha grassland. GHG emissions per kilogram meat in the economic optimum differ between the production systems and range from 18 to 21.9 kg CO2-eq./kg meat. Only GHG offset by agroforestry systems showed the potential to significantly reduce these emissions. Depending on the production system agroforestry systems could reduce net GHG emissions by 66% to 7.3 kg CO2-eq./kg meat in the most intensive system and by 100% in the most extensive system. In this calculation a carbon sequestration rate of 8 t CO2/ha/year was assumed. The potential of a combination of the addition of lipids to the diet, a cover of the slurry tank and the application of nitrification inhibitors only had the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 12% thereby marginal abatement costs are increasing much faster than for agroforestry systems. A reduction of the GHG emissions to 7.5 kg CO2-eq./kg meat—possible with agroforestry only—raised costs between 0.03 CHF/kg meat and 0.38 CHF/kg meat depending on the production system and the state of the system before the reduction. If GHG emissions were reduced maximally average costs ranged between 0.37 CHF/kg meat, if agroforestry had the potential to reduce net GHG emissions to 0 kg CO2-eq., to 1.17 CHF/kg meat if also other options had to be applied.