Livestock management practices now claimable under ERF

18 September 2015

Grassfed cattle producers around Australia have been given an opportunity to sell the environmental benefits of changed herd management techniques through the Federal Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF).

The ERF provides livestock producers and landholders an opportunity to generate extra income by storing carbon in vegetation and soils, or reducing greenhouse gas emissions from their grazing operations.

In a significant step forward for beef producers seeking financial recognition for their greenhouse abatement efforts, the Federal Government has now approved a number of practices that lead to a reduction in emissions per kilogram of liveweight produced.

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) manager of sustainable feedbase Dr Tom Davison said this includes practices that:

  • increase the ratio of weight to age of the herd;
  • reduce the average age of the herd;
  • reduce the proportion of unproductive animals in the herd; or
  • change the ratio of livestock classes within the herd to increase total annual liveweight gain of the herd.

“The national greenhouse inventory shows that beef cattle are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions within the agriculture sector, however research has also shown these emissions can be reduced by improving diet, breeding efficiency or structure of cattle herds – the very things that also improve profitability,” Dr Davison said.

“For example, producers in the northern part of Australia could reduce the time from birth to market by introducing improved feeding and watering regimes.

“Producers in the south, who have high quality feed more readily available, might focus on better reproduction rates using improved breeding techniques to lift calving percentages and minimise the number of unproductive animals, or increase livestock growth rates through forage cropping or supplementation.”

This method of claiming emissions reductions is only available to Australian producers of pasture-fed cattle, and not to herds managed in feedlots, or to producers of grassfed lambs, sheep and goats.

“It is important to remember that due to the small reductions in methane emissions per animal, the method is most likely to be viable where producers can put together 20,000 animal equivalents or above for their project, either as an individual business or as an aggregation of herds,” Dr Davison said.

“Producers will need to have good records of animal numbers by class of animal dating back to three years before the start of their project and be able to prove the introduction of new practices from the start of a project under the ERF. If they can demonstrate this then they have an opportunity for alternative income from productivity related practices.”

The cattle management methods approved by the Commonwealth this week add to other farm management practices already recognised by the scheme, including avoided clearing of native forest regrowth; savanna fire management; and sequestering carbon in soil in grazing systems.

Dr Davison said producers who want to participate in the ERF must set up a project using an approved abatement method, which includes rules for estimating the resulting reduction in emissions.

“In order to assess the extent of emission reductions as a result of new activities, producers must first determine the historical level of emissions intensity from their herd,” he said.

“This baseline is calculated from records about the number, liveweight and liveweight gain of animals in three of the past seven years. Producers wishing to participate should first consider whether they have the necessary historical data before applying to register a project under this methodology.”

Once a producer establishes the baseline emission intensity, they then implement their project activity, record the required data and calculate the corresponding reduction in emissions using the Herd Management Calculator.

Carbon credits are awarded when producers demonstrate that emissions from their herd are lower than they would have been if the activities were not undertaken.

ERF participants may then bid for a contract to sell their carbon credits to the Clean Energy Regulator, which will run auctions to select bidders according to price.

Livestock producers can participate in the ERF as individuals, sole traders, companies, local, state and territory government bodies and trusts, and will need to apply to participate through the Clean Energy Regulator.

Fact sheets on how to participate in the program are available here 

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