How a Patagonian ranch reduces its impact on global warming

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By Nana Halager Mikkelsen
From transportation to use of electricity to fuel, ranching and livestock production can have a significant impact on the global warming issues we are facing today.
At Estancia La Península, a ranch in Chilean Patagonia located in the Magallanes Region on the Antonio Varas Peninsula just 30 minutes by boat from Puerto Natales, we are trying to minimize our environmental impact in livestock raising and tourism. To that end, one key initiative is conserving the nature surrounding the ranch activities. Estancia La Península is spread out over 18,500 hectares, but just 4,000 hectares are used for ranching and tourism and all of the rest is set aside for conservation.
Conserving nature has diverse benefits. For starters, the untouched and wild landscape on the peninsula is beautiful and what makes this place so attractive to tourists. But conserving nature also helps the ranch achieve its mission of becoming environmentally responsible. In January 2017, the ranch hosted three students from the Physical Sciences and Mathematics Department of the University of Chile. Led by civil industrial engineer Claudia Maclean, they examined the greenhouse gas emissions produced by Estancia La Península and the results of their study underscore the importance of conservation as a key component of any policy aimed at lessening the carbon footprint of ranching in Patagonia.
Horses at Estancia La Peninsula. Horses at Estancia La Peninsula.
Peninsula Antonio Varas.Peninsula Antonio Varas.
In short, the group wanted to study how much emissions were generated into the atmosphere and how much of it was captured again. First, they identified the carbon footprint made by the actions of the ranch, such as electricity use, having livestock, and using fuel, and then they calculated the number of emissions generated in a specified period. Second, they identified the sources that capture the emissions, such as the different trees and other species in the area surrounding the estancia.
Their study concluded that the current emissions are 356.7 tons of CO2eQ per year. The surrounding native forest and ecosystem -- the lenga forests and the peat bogs - capture 621 tons of CO2eQ per year. Hence, the surrounding nature catches all generated emissions and makes the ranch a “carbon negative” place.
Inspired by its founder, the ecologist Allan Savory, we already had been doing holistic livestock management, a type of ranching that seeks to manage agriculture resources while at the same time caring for the natural ecosystem and avoiding overgrazing. But the students recommended other ways we can further reduce emissions in our livestock raising – and which we are doing now - such as optimizing transportation practices, reusing materials that already found in the estancia, installing solar panels to generate electricity, and collecting dry firewood from within the estancia property.
Solar panels at Estancia La Peninsula. Solar panels at Estancia La Peninsula.
Driftwood at the property.Driftwood at the property.
In addition to environmental sustainability, the ranch also has a policy of “no-blood and no-harm.” The shearing is done with great care for the sheep. It is not about speed for us, rather we only select a small group to do the shearing to avoid “assembly line work” where there is more noise in the stable and a greater risk for stressing the sheep or cutting the skin. As well, we do not practice tail docking of the cows or cutting off a piece of the ears of the sheep for identification (they use ear-chip and chalk marks). The horses are not burn marked. All animals roam freely year around.
At Estancia La Peninsula, we are showing that is possible to combine holistic livestock management and tourism with animal-friendly policies, sustainable practices, and conservation of nature.
The author, Nana Halager Mikkelsen, is marketing and sales manager for Estancia La Peninsula.