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Modelling greenhouse gas emissions abatement options for beef and sheep farm businesses
Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) commissioned the Australian Farm Institute (AFI) in collaboration with the Australian Centre for Sustainable Business and Development, University of Southern Queensland to evaluate the impact of different farm management scenarios on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and farm business performance. The aim of the project was to provide a greater understanding of the potential GHG emissions abatement options available to farmers.
The assessment was undertaken using five case-study broadacre beef, sheep and mixed livestock and cropping farms located in eastern Australia. Twelve different farm management scenarios were evaluated, including;
- Improving pasture quality;
- Improving the genetic potential of beef cattle to produce less methane;
- Implementing early weaning strategies;
- Improving reproductive efficiency;
- Matching sheep enterprise feed demand with optimal pasture supply;
- Increasing the rates of beef cattle turnoff;
- Grain finishing cattle;
- The use of hypothetical methane inhibitors in the gut of ruminant animals;
- Improving fertiliser use efficiency;
- The use of nitrogen inhibitors in conjunction with fertiliser applications;
- Implementing enterprise change; and
- The planting of environmental tree lots.
The GHG emissions associated with the potential implementation of each management scenario and the broader sub-scenarios were evaluated using the FarmGAS tool, developed by the AFI (see Figure E1). The long-term financial implications of each scenario for the case-study farm businesses was assessed by calculating the net present value (NPV) of the capital and operating costs and future revenue stream arising from each scenario, using industry cost and revenue data. The results of the GHG emissions modelling and financial analysis were used to develop Marginal Abatement Cost Curves (MACCs), which provide a visual perspective of both the amount of abatement available for each scenario, and the marginal cost of each unit of abatement. The financial analysis and MACCs were generated by the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). The assessment was designed to provide a preliminary evaluation of the performance of each of the potential GHG emissions abatement scenarios, rather than to accurately quantify their GHG emission or financial benefits in a commercial situation.
This preliminary analysis identified that six key areas of the farm management scenarios assessed have the potential to consistently reduce overall farm GHG emissions with four of these main scenarios also providing a positive financial return. These main scenarios include faster beef cattle turn off, changing the enterprise mix, improving beef genetics and implementing earlier weaning (see Figure E2). The hypothetical use of methane inhibitors in the guts of ruminant animals and environmental plantings such as tree lots also showed promising results for GHG emissions abatement but preliminary information on the capital costs associated with implementing these scenarios suggests that they are not financially viable.
The commercial relevance of the beef genetics, early weaning and methane inhibitor scenarios was assessed through a process of seeking feedback from industry experts. This feedback indicated that these scenarios and the modelled outcomes were generally consistent with that which would occur under commercial conditions.
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Adapting the FarmGAS calculator to be relevant and easily used for specific beef and Sheepmeat production systems.
This page was last updated on 05/07/2018
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