Marginal costs of abating greenhouse gases in the global ruminant livestock sector

  • B. Henderson
  • A. Falcucci
  • A. Mottet
  • L. Early
  • B. Werner
  • H. Steinfeld
  • P. Gerber
Original Article


Livestock [inclusive of ruminant species, namely cattle (Bos Taurus and Bos indicus), sheep (Ovis aries), goats (Capra hircus), and buffaloes (Bubalus bubalis), and non-ruminant species, namely pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus) and chickens (Gallus domesticus)] are both affected by climate change and contribute as much as 14.5 % of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, most of which is from ruminant animals (Gerber et al. 2013). This study aims to estimate the marginal costs of reducing GHG emissions for a selection of practices in the ruminant livestock sector (inclusive of the major ruminant species—cattle, sheep, and goats) globally. It advances on previous assessments by calculating marginal costs rather than commonly reported average costs of abatement and can thus provide insights about abatement responses at different carbon prices. We selected the most promising abatement options based on their effectiveness and feasibility. Improved grazing management and legume sowing are the main practices assessed in grazing systems. The urea (CO(NH2)2) treatment of crop straws is the main practice applied in mixed crop–livestock systems, while the feeding of dietary lipids and nitrates are confined to more intensive production systems. These practices were estimated to reduce emissions by up to 379 metric megatons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions per year (MtCO2-eq yr−1). Two thirds of this reduction was estimated to be possible at a carbon price of 20 US dollars per metric ton of CO2 equivalent emissions ($20 tCO2-eq−1). This study also provides strategic guidance as to where abatement efforts could be most cost effectively targeted. For example, improved grazing management was particularly cost effective in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, while legume sowing appeared to work best in Western Europe and Latin America.


Carbon sequestration Grazing Climate change mitigation Feed additives 



This research was supported by grants from the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture (MICCA) Programme, and by the AnimalChange project of the European Union’s Seventh Framework for Research and Innovation funding programme (FP7/2007–2013, Grant Agreement no. 266018).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

This research paper is in compliance with the ethical standards of this journal. The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest with regard to funding, institutional arrangements, or any related matters. All funding related to this research has been disclosed in the acknowledgements section above. Furthermore, consent to submit has been received explicitly from all co-authors as from responsible authorities at the organization where the work has been carried out.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. Henderson
    • 1
    • 2
  • A. Falcucci
    • 1
  • A. Mottet
    • 1
  • L. Early
    • 1
  • B. Werner
    • 1
  • H. Steinfeld
    • 1
  • P. Gerber
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.UN Food and Agriculture OrganizationRomeItaly
  2. 2.Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Queensland Bioscience PrecinctSt LuciaAustralia
  3. 3.Animal Production Systems groupWageningen UniversityWageningenthe Netherlands

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