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Monday, 23 January 2023

Measuring carbon at the farmgate brings dividends

Mudgegonga cattle and seedstock producer Julian Carroll has one long-term goal among his targets for measuring carbon emissions within the production process – gaining preferential access to markets for his high-end, high marbling feedlot Angus steers by identifying their carbon footprint.

Mr Carroll will be one of the speakers at next month’s Farming Carbon 2023 Conference, which will be hosted at the George Kerferd Hotel Beechworth on Tuesday, 28 February 2023 between 9.30am and 4.30pm.

The conference, which aims to meet a growing need to promote awareness of what carbon farming is all about, is supported by North East Catchment Management Authority (CMA) with funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

“The issues around measuring carbon emissions – probably one of the most widely talked about topics in producer networks now – are causing quite a bit of concern and confusion. There is a lack of understanding,” Mr Carroll says.

Mr Carroll is principal of the seedstock enterprise Stellar Livestock and manager of the family’s commercial enterprise “Round Hill”, which comprises 350 Angus females producing steers for the EU feedlot market.

He is also Regional Chair for the Southern Australia Livestock Research Council (SALRC) Central Victoria Regional Committee, which provides recommendations on research and development and extension and adoption initiatives and investments in the Australian red meat and livestock industries.

Mr Carroll says he is passionate about employing best practice farming systems. For the past two years he has been calculating the carbon footprint of the commercial enterprise as part of Agriculture Victoria’s Livestock Farm Monitor Project.

“With two years of data now, it’s a challenging picture; our emissions are 10 times the amount of that we have sequested,” he says.

“Seventeen per cent of the commercial enterprise is planted to native eucalypts but they are all very young, having been planted in a flurry of activity in the past four years. They will peak at 20 years and we will see where the net carbon footprint improves significantly and how we compare with other producers in terms of carbon use intensity.”

The Carrolls’ commercial beef enterprise is a pilot farm in another Agriculture Victoria program, the On Farm Emissions Reduction Plan. After analysing the business with an expert in livestock carbon emissions, they are aiming to optimise the feeding system in their stock containment areas, to increase the rate at which they turn off their young steers.

“If we can bring forward our turn-off dates by two weeks for a B-double truckload of 75 to 78 steers we can reduce net emissions by 1.7 per cent.

“The project is about improving our performance in autumn and winter when traditionally our growth rates are slow, by investing in more sophisticated feeding infrastructure and getting better efficiency out of our feed, steers will hit the spec sooner, and the reproductive performance of our young females will improve.

“Traditionally we yard wean our calves and hold them in containment until there is good quality feed in the paddocks. We will feed chopped silage into concrete feed bunkers rather than onto the ground; and it also sets us up to be feed additive ready for the future.”

An example offered by Meat and Livestock Australia is where methane production from grainfed cattle can be reduced by 98 per cent when supplementing their diets with red seaweed.

“When considering emission reduction strategies, I am interested in identifying those that decrease our carbon emissions, improve natural capital and biodiversity, and increase profitability. It’s a sweet spot when you achieve all three,” Mr Carroll said.

Registrations for the conference are now open at https://events.humanitix.com/farming-carbon

Tickets are just $20 including a booking fee.

Pic 1 – Julian Carroll seeks to gain preferential access to markets for his high-end, high marbling feedlot Angus steers by identifying their carbon footprint.

Pic 2 – Angus steers from Round Hill, Mudgegonga.

Pic 3 - Seventeen per cent of the commercial enterprise at Round Hill is planted to native eucalypts that will peak at 20 years.

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