Productive herds deliver a greener bottom line
06 September 2023
Argyle Foods Group (AFG), a vertically integrated pastoral company and parent to Argyle Carbon, aims to make impactful environmental change across its grazing properties in NSW and Victoria. This is the second article in a series on Argyle Carbon’s initiatives in this space – read the first article in the Autumn 2023 edition of Feedback.
Improved cattle productivity and a focus on reducing emissions are firmly aligned with Argyle’s overall business goals – an approach which has set them up for lasting success and ongoing benefits to their land and its management.
Argyle received support under MLA’s Co-Innovation program, which supports capability building to solve the big challenges facing the red meat industry.
With this support, it registered two carbon sequestration methodologies (reforestation and soil carbon sequestration) and an emissions avoidance methodology centred on improved beef herd management with the Clean Energy Regulator.
AFG Commercial Manager Naomi Leahy said Argyle’s not in this for the short game and aims for lasting environmental impact.
“We’re focused on improving the land and health of our soils across our properties to capture carbon and increase biodiversity, while enabling our operation to become more drought resistant in a changing climate.
“We chose methods we thought worked with our production system and would help us reach our business goals. It’s a symbiotic relationship and not just an added chore.”
Argyle’s existing grassfed system ensured a smooth transition to undertaking a beef herd management method.
“Calculating our emissions under the method fits in with our day-to-day operations,” Naomi said.
“We own our livestock through the whole supply chain, so we’ve identified an opportunity to measure – and over time, reduce – our emissions to make our beef products more sustainable. The program is one way of helping us achieve this.”
Argyle is working towards the goal of marketing its branded beef as carbon neutral, without the need to purchase external offsets.
“We’re focused on a holistic approach to improving our sustainability, and reducing livestock emissions is a key component of this strategy,” Naomi said.
The company operates a year-round turnoff to domestic and international markets, including Taiwan, Hong Kong and the US. Argyle’s network of more than 40 properties across NSW and Victoria gives it the advantage of being adaptable to seasonal variability – as well as achieving the goal of reduced emissions.
"We use our network of properties to reduce our turnoff time,” Naomi said.
“Access to year-round supply of feed, particularly when seasonal conditions are tough, means we can focus on productivity and reducing emissions as much as we can control.”
Nine steps to reducing beef herd emissions
Producers can reduce the emissions produced by beef herds by:
These emissions reduction strategies can provide with Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCU).*
Here are nine ways Argyle is reducing emissions from its beef herd:
*Regardless of whether credits are earned, reducing emissions delivers increased productivity, improved herd management and environmental benefits and contributes to the red meat industry’s carbon neutral by 2030 (CN30) goal.
Strategies for success
The methodology goes hand in hand with increased productivity.
“Ensuring our herd is managed as productively as possible is symbiotic to our goals as a vertically integrated beef business. We’re doing as much as possible to minimise the environmental impacts whilst maximising the productivity of each animal,” Naomi said.
She said reduced turnoff time was critical.
“By increasing kilos faster we’re able to reduce animals’ lifespans and, therefore, their emissions.”
Argyle is still in the first reporting period and doesn’t have a firm number of Australian Carbon Credit Units earned at this stage, however Naomi is pleased with initial observations of liveweight increases and believes the productivity gains are there to be made.
"The project informs our purchasing and sales decisions. It’s now front-of-mind to us to not hold onto cattle for unnecessary time. We’re starting to balance the financial performance alongside the impact of cattle classes on our emissions," Naomi said.
Three years of data is required to register beef herd methodology, so Naomi’s advice is to start collecting this data now it’s not already being recorded.
“Producers wanting to get involved in a methodology need to be familiar with data requirements – they should get advice ahead of time,” Naomi said.
Essential data requirements include records of all purchases and sales, as well as entry and exit weights, which can be collected from weighbridges, invoices, kill weights or individual live weights.
Her tip is to set up data management practices early on, to ensure it’s easier to consolidate information collected throughout the year.
Argyle’s in-house carbon team manages data consolidation and saves time by aligning data across the company to the beef herd management calculator’s requirements, available at the Emissions Reductions website.
The Argyle team uses Excel and Agriwebb for data collection and analysis. Annual reporting periods have helped them reflect on the previous year’s management and performance, and plan goals for the coming year.
Argyle aims to continue refining its production systems to improve productivity and generate ACCUs.
“We’ll continue improving our modelling to inform our decisions and livestock purchases. We now model the potential ACCU returns of our operations alongside traditional financial data such as livestock sales to forecast our business returns,” Naomi said.
Four essential requirements for managing beef herds
The Beef Herd Management Project’s essential requirements are: