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Beyond the Bale : March 2015
48 ON FARM INCREASING PRODUCTIVITY TO LOWER EMISSIONS INTENSITY Farm300 producers at a field day near Springfield in Western Australia in October last year. More than 300 beef and sheep producers across Australia are participating in the Farm300 project which aims to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of cattle and sheep businesses by up to 30 per cent while boosting both profitability and productivity by 10 per cent. The project is funded by the Australian Government, managed by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and delivered in partnership with the Australian Farm Institute (AFI), Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) and Dairy Australia, and concludes in May 2015. Currently the main opportunities for livestock producers to manage their GHG emissions are to reduce the intensity of livestock emissions (the GHG emissions per kg of red meat or wool produced). As a result, on-farm practice changes which improve productivity, including by reducing wastage, can significantly reduce the estimated level of emissions intensity. As an example, increasing lambing percentage by reducing mortality may reduce emissions intensity by 30 per cent. While the carbon policy environment has changed rapidly in recent years, and the specifics for farmer engagement in the Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund are still being resolved, the Farm300 project seeks to assist farmers take a proactive approach to minimising their emissions intensity, while improving productivity and profitability. 128 specialist farm advisors have been trained to build their practical knowledge and skills in managing on-farm GHG emissions as well as options on how to participate in the Government’s Emissions Reductions Fund. These advisors use the knowledge to support producers to adopt new management techniques that will increase productivity and profitability, whilst reducing emissions. Of these advisors, 23 were selected to work around the country with one or more producer groups and run workshops, discussion forums and one on one coaching sessions. The 337 producers participating in the program will become skilled in the best management practices and principles that can reduce on-farm emissions and boost farm productivity. They will also learn about relevant opportunities under the Australian Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund (as they become available) to mitigate greenhouse gases and earn carbon credits. Each coach uses a GHG calculator with their group to help benchmark the baseline emissions of their farm businesses, and then to test the impact of different on-farm strategies that look to improve those baseline emissions. These calculators are freely available online – see the links right – and while they are relatively easy to use, you may require assistance, which can be arranged through the Farm300 National Coordinator. Using the calculators, a number of management changes have been identified which increase productivity and simultaneously reduce emissions intensity - see table below. By evaluating the application of management practice changes, Farm300 aims to support and underpin producers’ business objectives, encouraging them to make small and robust adjustments to their enterprise now, rather than wait and be forced to make large, more radical and often more costly decisions under stress. While Farm300 is a two year program, due to finish in May 2015, it aims to leave a lasting legacy by equipping producers and advisors with the skills to manage emissions on farm, understand and respond to challenges from climate variability and potentially benefit from trading carbon credits while minimising their environmental footprint. RESOURCES • Tracking of producers participating in Farm300: www.mla.com.au/Farm300 • Why Sustainability Matters – a short video which outlines why industry should act now to reduce emissions: http://youtu. be/8SiR3nVlEV4 • A video tutorial which outlines three key steps to managing climate variability in livestock enterprises: www.mla.com.au/ News-and-resources/Industry-news/ Steps-to-managing-climate-variability • The ‘Sustainable Grazing’ producer manual explains how grazing management techniques can be used to achieve productivity and emissions benefits: www.mla.com.au/Livestock- production/Environmental-management/ Sustainable-grazing-a-producer-resource GREENHOUSE GAS CALCULATORS • FarmGAS calculator (an online calculator: users must register with AFI): www.farminstitute.org.au/calculators/ farm-gas-calculator • SheepGAF and BeefGAF (Excel files downloaded from the University of Melbourne website): www.greenhouse. unimelb.edu.au/Tools.htm MORE INFORMATION www.mla.com.au/Farm300 Leanne Sherriff Farm300 National Coordinator Macquarie Franklin E firstname.lastname@example.org ON-FARM MANAGEMENT CHANGE PRODUCTIVITY/PROFITABILITY INCREASE EMISSIONS REDUCTION Rotationally grazing to increase native grasses May enable additional lambs to be weaned and sent to market earlier Stock are turned off faster Establishing higher quality pastures May make livestock production systems more efficient Potentially reduced methane emissions Improving soil health May improve pasture utilisation, and retention of moisture and nutrients May improve soil carbon sequestration Genetic selection for faster lamb growth rates May enable growth targets to be achieved sooner Stock could be turned off faster Change of stock enterprise, from breeding to finishing or vice versa Might result in increased income or better cash flow Animals could be turned off earlier and have reduced maintenance requirements. Improve weaning rates through scanning etc Increase production per ewe joined, and reduces wastage Potentially increased weaner turnoff per ewe joined Revegetation of less productive land Potentially increases grazing capacity Possible productivity and carbon sequestration increase The Farm300 project aims to boost the productivity of livestock enterprises by improving producers’ ability to manage greenhouse gas emissions. FARM300 WAYS PRODUCERS ARE INCREASING PRODUCTIVITY AND REDUCING EMISSIONS