Why Nitrogen Matters in Livestock Production Report
Nitrogen makes up the majority (78%) of the earth’s atmosphere and cycles in various forms between the atmosphere, plants, soils, water, animals, microbes and humans. Nitrogen (N) is an essential element in the production of proteins and DNA found in plants and animals. Nitrogen is largely lost from agriculture and food systems by either leaching from soils into watercourses as nitrate or as gaseous emissions. The key gas emissions containing nitrogen from agriculture are nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas (GHG) and ammonia, an air pollutant.
Modern farming practices have increased reliance on artificial N fertiliser to increase crop yields, including feed and forage crops for livestock. However, the manufacture of artificial N fertilisers produces GHGs, and a proportion of the N is emitted to the atmosphere or lost through leaching or runoff after application.
This report aims to explore N cycling in livestock production systems, highlighting the roles of different forms of N, particularly its vital role in protein production, and where losses occur from the cycle. It will:
- Describe the forms of N in livestock nutrition, and the importance of protein N in human and animal nutrition
- Describe how N cycles through livestock production systems and where losses occur
- Discuss current approaches to quantifying Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE)
CIEL has commissioned the new report ‘Why Nitrogen Matters in Livestock Production’ to inform the debate about NUE and its relevance to environmental stewardship and food security. As we seek to define and shift to a more sustainable food system, both nitrogen emissions and the value livestock add by providing superior protein food sources must be considered.
The report, published in September 2023, was accompanied by a special launch webinar on 12 September where we were joined by report authors Prof. John Newbold and Dr Gemma Miller from SRUC who presented key report findings and answered questions from the audience.
If you have a particular interest in future events and initiatives CIEL is planning around this topic area, please indicate this on the contact form and we’ll be in touch to discuss further.