Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 71, Issue 2, pp 163–175 | Cite as

A farm level approach to define successful mitigation strategies for GHG emissions from ruminant livestock systems

  • R. L. M. Schils
  • A. Verhagen
  • H. F. M. Aarts
  • L. B. J. Šebek


Ruminant livestock systems are a significant source of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Thus far, mitigation options for GHG emissions mainly focused on a single gas, and are treated as isolated activities. The present paper proposes a framework for a farm level approach for the full accounting of GHG emissions. The methodology accounts for the relevant direct and indirect emissions of methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide, including carbon sequestration. Furthermore, the potential trade-off with ammonia volatilisation and nitrate leaching are taken into account. A ruminant livestock farm is represented with a conceptual model consisting of five pools: animal, manure, soil, crop and feed. The carbon and nitrogen inputs, throughputs and outputs are described, and the direct emissions are related to the carbon and nitrogen flows. The indirect emissions included in the methodology are mainly carbon dioxide emissions from energy use and nitrous oxide emissions related to imported resources and nitrogen losses. The whole farm approach is illustrated with a case of two dairy farms with contrasting livestock density and grassland management. It is shown that the inclusion of carbon sequestration and all indirect emissions have a major impact on the GHG budget of the farm. For one farm, the effect of four mitigation options on the GHG emissions was quantified. It was concluded that a whole farm approach of full accounting contributes to a better insight in the interactions between the carbon and nitrogen flows and the resulting emissions, within and outside the farm boundaries. Consequently, the methodology can be used to develop efficient and effective mitigation strategies.


Carbon sequestration Dairy Farm management Greenhouse gases IPCC Methodology Nitrogen Ruminants 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. L. M. Schils
    • 1
  • A. Verhagen
    • 1
  • H. F. M. Aarts
    • 1
  • L. B. J. Šebek
    • 2
  1. 1.Agrosystems ResearchPlant Research InternationalAA WageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Applied ResearchAnimal Sciences GroupAD LelystadThe Netherlands

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