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Whole Farm Systems Abatement Modelling
The project conducted ~25 biophysically and economically evaluated options for reducing net emissions (NE), emissions intensity (EI) and improving farm profitability. These studies were published in 27 peer reviewed papers (plus another 6 in prep and 4 in review), 4 book chapters and 29 conference papers, focused on exploring mitigation options for the grazing industries. In some cases the modelling (e.g. feeding dietary oils to dairy cattle, the herd method, nitrate supplementation) was used to inform the development of CFI/ERF methods.
The WFSAM project further developed modelling capability and capacity, specifically in greenhouse gas abatement options for the livestock industries. Model improvements were made in the DairyMod and SGS models to enhance their capacity to model methane and nitrous oxide emissions at a whole farm systems scale. The project developed a number of decision support tools including improving the Sheep and Beef Greenhouse Accounting Frameworks, the DGAS model and the Sheep COST. The team also developed a steady state framework to analyse the profit, cash and wealth of a farm business.
The case studies modelled provided some examples where both NE reductions and productivity gains could be achieved (e.g. extended lactation in dairy and introducing legumes to beef and sheep systems). In most of the studies conducted, however, reducing NE to maximise offset income was not the most profitable strategy for the farm, when compared with maximising productivity or profitability while reducing EI. There will always be exceptions to this where economies of scale can make the numerical benefit worthwhile, even if the benefits as a proportion of total income are still extremely low.
The two carbon neutral grazing systems modelled also served to demonstrate that a livestock farm can be productive, profitable and carbon neutral through planting trees, while increasing production on the balance of the land. Another case study showed that, while environmental plantings were not profitable if productive land was set aside, if these plantings could provide shade and shelter that reduced heat stress and lamb mortality, this would more than cover the cost of establishment.
While research on options to profitably reduce NE should still be a key priority, given the distinct lack of clear options to profitably reduce NE this raises the question if EI is a better metric to underpin future offset methods for the livestock industries, as the WFSAM modelling provides numerous examples where EI was reduced profitably, while meeting productivity targets. Examples are provided on how this could underpin offset methods and how this may work at a farm or industry scale.
Future mitigation research needs to include consideration of profitability impacts of the mitigation interventions, as it is clear that at current carbon prices the offset income alone is insufficient to incentivise the majority of graziers.
This page was last updated on 25/07/2017
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