Air and Greenhouse Gas

Indicator Definition

The cumulative emissions of pollutants, including particulate matter, greenhouse gases and other gaseous emissions from a sector for each process.

Why is this indicator important to the cow-calf sector?

Cattle producers’ management decisions and activities can directly impact the health of pastures on which the cattle graze. The health of these pastures affects water retention and quality, soil health and ecological function, as well as carbon sequestration.


Has a grazing management plan (or equivalent) been implemented to protect or improve soil and plant community health, including soil carbon sequestration?

Why did we choose this metric?

Properly managed grazing can increase the carbon storage capacity of soil and reduce losses to the atmosphere. Many factors must be considered to do this and the most useful tool for cattle producers to manage all these factors, to increase carbon storage capacity of soil and reduce air and GHG emissions, is a grazing management plan (GMP). The fact that GMPs are central to improving so many different sustainability outcomes across water resources, land resources, and air and GHG emissions also makes it possible to advance diverse goals through a single integrated plan embedded in operations, which also increases the potential for increased metric adoption across the cow-calf sector.

Desired Outcomes

Improvements in the air and GHG emissions sustainability outcomes, based on implementation of a GMP, include:

  • Properly managed forages resulting in healthy and increased ground cover from plant and litter
  • This protects soil surface from wind and water erosion and holds and builds soils through increased organic matter that can aid in increased carbon sequestration
  • Through proper grazing, grassland fuel loads can be reduced, leading to reduced risk of high-intensity fires which reduces the potential for more than normal volumes of GHG emissions emitted to the atmosphere during a wildfire

Why do these outcomes matter for continuous improvement?

Managed grazing can increase the carbon storage capacity of soil and reduce losses to the atmosphere.

Success Criteria

Increasing the number of U.S. cow-calf producers who implement a GMP (or equivalent) that protects or improves soil and plant community health, including soil carbon sequestration.

How does this metric continuously improve beef sustainability?

Increasing the number of producers implementing GMPs in the U.S. can have a significant positive impact on air and GHG emissions by protecting and improving soil and plant community health and increasing the carbon storage capacity of soil to reduce losses to the atmosphere. A GMP can also improve water resources and land resources.

State-specific resources are available to assist in the development of  grazing management plans.

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