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Evaluating environmental impacts of the Japanese beef cow–calf system by the life cycle assessment method


Akifumi Ogino, National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science, Tsukuba, 305-0901, Japan. (Email:


The objectives of this study were to evaluate the environmental impacts of a beef cow–calf system using a life cycle assessment (LCA) method and to investigate the effects of scenarios to reduce environmental impacts on the LCA results. The functional unit was defined as one marketed beef calf, and the processes associated with the cow–calf life cycle, such as feed production, feed transport, animal management, the biological activity of the animal and the treatment of cattle waste were included in the system boundary. The present results showed that the total contributions of one beef calf throughout its life cycle to global warming, acidification, eutrophication and energy consumption were 4550 kg of CO2 equivalents, 40.1 kg of SO2 equivalents, 7.0 kg of phosphate (PO4) equivalents and 16.1 GJ, respectively. The contribution of each process to the total environmental impact in each environmental impact category showed a similar tendency to the contribution of each process in each environmental category reported in the case of the beef fattening system as a whole. The results from this analysis showed that shortening calving intervals by 1 month reduced environmental impacts by 5.7–5.8% in all the environmental impact categories examined in the current study, and increasing the number of calves per cow also reduced environmental impacts in all the categories, although the effects were smaller.