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Direct methane and nitrous oxide emissions of South African dairy and beef cattle

CJL du Toit
HH Meissner
WA van Niekerk


The objective of this study was to estimate direct methane and nitrous oxide emissions of South African dairy and beef cattle in total and per province using the Tier 2 methodology of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but adapted for tropical production systems. Dairy and beef cattle in 2010 contributed an estimated 964 Giga gram (Gg) or 72.6% of the total livestock methane emissions in South Africa. Beef cattle in extensive systems were the largest contributor (83.3%), followed by dairy cattle (13.5%), and feedlot cattle (3.2%). The enteric methane  emission factors for dairy cattle of 76.4 kg CH4/head/year and 71.8 kg CH4/head/year for concentrate fed and pasture-based production systems, respectively, were higher than those reported by other developing  countries, as well as the IPCC default value of 46 kg CH4/head/year for developing countries. The beef cattle methane emission factors of 78.9 kg CH4/head/year and 62.4 kg CH4/head/year for commercial and  emerging/communal cattle, respectively, were similar to those reported by other developing countries, but higher than the IPCC default value of 31 kg/head/year. Primarily because of cattle numbers, Eastern Cape recorded the highest dairy and beef cattle methane emissions, whereas Gauteng showed the highest feedlot methane emissions.

Keywords: Greenhouse gas, production systems, commercial, communal, feedlot, rangeland

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2221-4062
print ISSN: 0375-1589