A Day in the Life For Cattle Rancher Kacy Atkinson - Upsmag - Magazine News

A Day in the Life For Cattle Rancher Kacy Atkinson

PS: According to the UN State of Food and Agriculture report, the US has had the lowest intensity of beef greenhouse-gas emissions in the world since 1996. How are you keeping sustainability and the environment in mind while ranching?

KA: “Sustainability” is one of those words that means something different to every single person. If I were to ask my dad, “Is the cattle industry sustainable?” He’d be like, “We’ve been here for four generations. Of course we’re sustainable.” For many in the cattle industry, sustainability is being able to keep our ranches viable for future generations. But like many Americans’ definition, it is also about properly managing the environment.

Agriculture is about trying to learn to work with Mother Nature because Mother Nature is the queen around here. She rules the kingdom. It’s all about figuring out, how am I going to work with her: Because my entire existence is dependent upon my being respectful and taking care of the things that she’s giving me.

We know that we have improved drastically in sustainability over the last few decades, and we’re going to continue to do those things as an industry. Of course, there are big, exciting new technologies on the horizon, but I would argue, that some of the little decisions we make every single day to improve and to make sure that we can be here for the long run are what ultimately make us sustainability. Things like being intentional about our land and water use or protecting the soil. Ranchers and farmers have invested their whole lives and hearts into this. Their goal is to see it sustained for the next generation.

PS: Are there any misconceptions about beef you’d like to set straight?

KA: We get criticism about greenhouse gas emissions because cattle produce methane through their burps. But when we look at methane, it will break down and be removed from the atmosphere in about 10 to 12 yearswhereas carbon dioxide from things like burning fossil fuels for cars and airplanes can take up to a thousand years to disintegrate.3 Still, the industry is researching new technologies like seaweed feed additives to reduce the amount of methane that cattle produce, and there is some really exciting research about converting methane into a natural gas that could be used to fuel cars.

How incredible would that be? We could have a positive impact on the climate. But today, we already play an important role in carbon sequestration. Cattle are part of a natural cycle that recycles the methane they emit back into the soil, which stores between 10 percent and 30 percent of the world’s carbon.one

On the ranch, sustainability also means caring for the land, and cattle have some pretty cool impacts on ecosystems. Cattle ranching preserves those natural spaces that we all want to keep intact and prevents them from being developed by construction. We are able to protect habitats for hundreds of endangered species across the country and even increase the health of the plants and soil through proper grazing.1,2 It’s all part of working hand-in-hand with Mother Nature. So instead of viewing cattle negatively, let’s view them as the potential hero in this story for the fact that they already make a meaningful difference.

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