Pastoralists care about the environment in which they raise their livestock – it is the basis of good business sense.
The Australian red meat industry’s goal is to be carbon neutral by 2030. As an industry, we are serious about addressing greenhouse gas emissions and are committed to improving the environment while producing high quality beef.
The 2019 Australian Beef Sustainability Annual update reported that the beef Industry is on track to reach its carbon neutral target by 2030, having already halved its carbon footprint since 2005. To help achieve this goal, the Territory pastoral industry uses a diverse range of sustainable mitigation options.
These on-ground practices include developing paddock and water-point infrastructure, matching stocking rates to long-term carrying capacity, using genetic and fertility selection, pasture improvement, and phosphorus and nitrate supplementation.
Reducing savanna burning emissions by carrying out early dry-season burning is another key management practice that allows pastoralists to reduce the risk of late dry-season bushfires, in turn improving biodiversity and reducing GHG emissions.
In addition, the Northern Territory has requirements for native wildlife corridors to offset land clearing, which in turn has a positive impact on the ability to capture carbon and carbon sequestration.
Research is being undertaken by the Climate Clever Beef Initiative (a collaboration between the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Resources, Queensland Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries, and the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries), CSIRO and Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) to improve business performance and reduce GHG emissions across Northern Australia.
There are a number of research projects based on capacity to reduce methane and potential productivity gains, with limited barriers to adoption: Increasing carbon stock in soil and vegetation through grazing management strategies, such as pasture spelling, has the ability to substantially increase the average amount of carbon stored in herbaceous vegetation (Bray et al. 2015; Whish et al. 2016).
This carbon farming practice also has significant positive implications for landscape health, including increase rainfall infiltration, reduced sediment loss and improved biodiversity habitat, and has a number of associated productivity benefits.
Leucaena, a legume fodder crop, has shown to improve productivity and profitability, as well as reduce methane emissions in cattle. Whole farm modelling has shown an increase in gross margins by up to 37 percent and methane emissions down by 17 percent compared with base modelling without leucaena (MLA, 2015). The potential for financial rewards for producers using leucaena could be further enhanced if this practice was covered by a method under Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF).
Feeding nitrate instead of urea supplement has shown to have a reduction of methane emissions by 10 percent if fed at a rate of 10 grams per kilogram of dry matter. Feeding nitrate however, can potentially be toxic to cattle if consumed too quickly. Therefore, research is being conducted through best management practice guidelines to help producers decide how to feed nitrates to their herd safely.
An abatement method has been approved under the ERF, so producers may be eligible to obtain carbon credits. Red macro-algae experiments in cattle have shown that feeding dried and ground preparations of the species Asparagopsis taxiformis reduced methane emissions by up to 80 percent.
The algae appears to change the concentration of short-chain fatty acids in the rumen, particularly propionate, providing an alternative sink for hydrogen (MLA, 2015). In the past five years, science has come a long way towards understanding the complex relationship between methane emissions and productivity in livestock.
With research and adoption, we believe that the pastoral Industry will meet the goal of being carbon neutral by 2030.