Impacts of Cattle farming on Environment

Climate change is not only happening because of the emission of carbon dioxide only. Climate change is the collective impact of different things. We cannot say climate change is only because of the burning of fossil fuels or coals. There are also other leading factors for climate change. One of the factors is cattle farming or cattle ranching or cattle agricultural farming. This sector is also contributing to climate change. Livestock agriculture produces greener house gases as compared to the emission of entire transport sector. Animals produce methane gas during their digestion process. It is 86 times more destructive as compared to carbon dioxide. Animal agriculture produces 65% of the world's nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide has a global warming potential 296 times greater than carbon dioxide. Energy-related emissions are expected to increase by 20% by the year 2040 and emissions from agriculture are predicted to increase by 80% by the year 2050. If we measure the greenhouse gas emissions using international standards animal agriculture is responsible for 51% of human-caused climate change. This sector has following impacts,

(i) Excessive use of water

Cattle farming uses a lot of water. This water used for their food growth and also used by themselves. It is said that one hamburger requires 660 gallons of water. Animals eat water extensive greens that thing increases their virtual water footprint. For example, in the USA 55% of water is used by animals. For example for the production of one pound of beef 2500 gallons of water are used.

(ii) Loss of Vegetation

Cattle ranching also causes for the loss of vegetation. The vegetation is a source of food for the animal. Thus when the vegetation is lost it causes to increase in albedo effect. Albedo effect is reflection of sunlight by earth surface. When there is more vegetation more sunlight is reflected back and if there is no vegetation less amount of sunlight is reflected back and more absorbed by the earth's surface. This results in an increase in the earth’s temperature. The darker color objects or surfaces have more Albedo effect as compared to lighter color objects or surfaces. Animal agriculture farming occupies 45% of the earth’s land. It is also a contributing factor to the loss of Amazon forests.

(iii) Soil Erosion.

Cattle farming is also causes for soil erosion. It damages soil fertility. When animals walk on the land they destroy the fertile layer of soil by their walks. It not only affects the soil but also vegetation.

(iv) Methane Emission

Animals emit methane during their digestion process. This is also emitted by animal’s waste. Methane is more toxic as compared to carbon dioxide. Animals not only produce methane but also produce Nitrous oxide which has 296 times higher global warming potential. Emissions of this sector are more damaging if we compare it with the emission of the entire transport sector.

Changes Expected by Cattle farming

Cattle farming has different environmental impacts. It has the same effects as any other anthropogenic factor has on the environment. Following are changes that we can expect from them,

(i) Species loss

Cattle farming effects are not obvious but this industry has long-lasting effects. For example, it can be, cause species extinction because cattle farming causes land degradation. This causes loss of forests which ultimately will lead to the loss of many species. It is a leading factor for the loss of Amazon forests.

(ii) Water Scarcity

Animals use more water than human beings. Our 1-week water demand is equal to their one-day water demand approximately. An increase in animals will lead to water scarcity. For example, Cape Town city is facing a water shortage. In this city of South Africa, people are facing water shortage if we increase the number of animals there will be no water for people soon.

(iii) Destabilization of communities’

Animal farming also causes to destabilize in different communities. People who live on animals always remain in search of animal food. These people grow animals in the form of herds. Where these people get food and water they start living. Not only animals which are grown by them have significant environmental effects but these also have their own environmental damaging footprint. These type of communities causes loss of vegetation shortage of water, water pollution, deforestation, and the list goes on.

(iv) Loss of land or land use

land that is used by cattle ranching soon lost its fertility. It gradually reduces it yields. Soon a time comes when you cannot grow anything without the use of fertilizers and pesticides. It is said that more than 45% of the land is used only for growing animals or producing dairy products across the globe. The rain forest is being cut down at the rate of per acre per second and the driving force behind all of this is animal agriculture. Cutting down of forest to graze animals or to grow soybeans. 116000 pounds of farm and animal excrement is produced every second in the USA. That is enough waste per year to cover every square foot of San Francisco, New York city Paris, New Delhi, Tokyo, Hong Kong London, and few big cities of the world.

Threats and opportunities

Every activity that has negative impacts also have positive impacts. Opportunities that are available because of cattle farming are followed,

(i) Meat Demand

Cattle farming is a great source of meat. This industry helps to meet the demand for meat in the USA. Other meat-producing industries like poultry cannot meet the demand of the meet. The reason for this is amounting of produced by a chicken is very less as compared to beef. One beef is equal to more than 1000 chickens approximately.

(ii) Milk Demand/ Dairy Products

Cattle ranching produces natural milk that is supplied to all over the country. Milk is an important food item. It does not only produce milk but also produces dairy foods like Yogurt. Butter, cream, etc. There are some food items that are prepared by milk.

(iii) Economic Opportunities

this industry also has economic value. It contributes a lot to a country's GDP or exports. For example, the USA earned 5.261$ billion by exporting beef. This amount was 2.629$ in 2002.

Specific Threats

Some of the threats to this industry are following,

(i) Food Shortage

if this industry is closed down it will lead to a serious food shortage. Milk supply and other dairy products supply chain would disturb seriously. Meat supply would also be reduced.

(ii) Unemployment.

Cattle farming industry provide job opportunities to the people across the country. Some jobs are directly attached to this but some people are indirectly attached. Most animal scientists have a Ph.D. According to the BLS, animal scientists in support activities for meat production earn an average of $115,650 per year in USA. Some of the jobs in this does not require any college degree like slaughter or persons who packs products or person who feeds animals.

(iii) Vegetarian’s movement

Vegetarian movements are a great threat to the cattle farming industry. Because of these movements, meat exports can be reduced which ultimately will lead to economic loss for the country.


The solution to this industry is quite simple. The first thing we have to do is to change animals' feed. We should provide those feeds that do not cause methane emissions. For the protection of land, we should confine the animals to a specific place. Cattle ranching in open areas should be banned.

Evidence to support the Claim.

Dr. Richard Oppenlander claims that if we stop using all fossil fuels across the globe even after that we will exceed that global target of minimum carbon equivalent greenhouse gas emissions now the 565 gig tons by the year 2030 all simply by raising livestock. Dr. Kirk smith a professor from the University of California states that if we reduce the number of methane emissions the level in the atmosphere goes down fairly quickly even in decades. As opposed to carbon dioxide if you reduce the CO2 emissions to the atmosphere you will not observe a reducing signal in the atmosphere for a hundred years. A study that was conducted in Japan shows that the production of one kilogram of beef leads to the emission of greenhouse gases with a global warming potential equivalent to 36.5 kilograms of carbon dioxide. It also releases other fertilizer chemicals like Nitrous oxides etc. if we usemarkegard model of raising animals which requires 4500 acres producing 80000 pounds of meat. One person in America eats 209 pounds of meat per year. This results in 11.7 acres of land is used for producing meat for one American every year and to meet the demand of 314 million Americans 3.7 billion acres would require. Nearly half of the united state land is dedicated to animal agriculture. It takes 23 months to one animal to grow on grass feed to grow to the point where its size, weight, and age meet the requirement to slaughter it whereas grain feed takes only 15 months. After these facts, we can say that grass feeds animals are more unsustainable as compared to grain feed animals. A cow normally drinks 35–40 gallons of water every day and it eats 145–150 pounds of feed every day. For one gallon of milk cow drinks a hundred gallons of the water.

Their waste is also contributing to global warming. Cows waste releases methane gas which is more toxic than carbon dioxide. Although we’ve invented technology to produce the biogas from the waste it is not practiced in developing countries.

The transportation cost and emission that is caused due to animal’s transportation is also counted in animal footprint. If the populations keep increasing the demand for dairy products will keep increasing for that reason this industry will grow. That eventually will increase the animal carbon footprint. In 195s Zimbabwe, the government started killing elephants because they thought that elephants were the reason for the desertification. After the killing, tens of thousands of elephant’s families were killed but the situation kept going worse. The United States of America also took the decision to kill wolves for cattle farming. Those wolves were migrated from Canada. The killing of any animals has many effects first we are destroying the verity of animals in our ecosystem. Every animal has a major role in the ecosystem that is given to him by nature. If we disturb nature’s cycle it would lead to serious consequences.


In conclusion, one can say that there is no way of sustainable cattle farming. To make it sustainable we should first change the diet of the animals so that its emissions could be reduced. To meet the demand for dairy products and meat we should focus on food management and food security. People should be given awareness to protect the environment.



I am a freelance content writer. I am working for the last three years. I do have knowledge of WordPress and SEO. These articles are my sample articles.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Ahmad Khan

I am a freelance content writer. I am working for the last three years. I do have knowledge of WordPress and SEO. These articles are my sample articles.