AUSTRALIA, Sydney. When Victorian producer Peter Star undertook carbon accounting for his livestock enterprise for the first time in 2020 he learnt two things: carbon accounting is not as hard as he thought it would be and he's a long way from being carbon neutral.
With his industry involvement as director of Cattle Council Australia, and a Victorian Farmers' Federation Livestock Councillor, he’s very conscious of just how topical carbon accounting will continue to be. "My main reason for doing the account was just to see what it’s about. Having done it, I thought it was a great exercise. It’s good to be in a position where you can advise people what to look at," he said.
Peter now views his carbon account as a starting point and an important step in seeking community support for producing beef in environmentally friendly farming systems. While he might not necessarily become carbon neutral, it’s given him something to strive for and he has identified how to head in that direction. Peter recommends interested producers undertake carbon accounting to help them understand and identify their challenges.
A simple way for a farm to be carbon neutral would be to devote 20% of the property to trees. That sounds easy, but the reality is that’s not going to happen, Peter said. With some realities in mind, has has identified four areas which would support balancing his carbon account in the future:
- Increasing tree and native vegetation plantation areas: Peter will plant 5ha of trees around a lagoon on his property, which has been empty in recent years. He’s looking at more areas which could be dedicated to trees as he sees the benefits beyond just offsetting emissions, such as improved shade and shelter for livestock and increased biodiversity.
- Improving pastures: Peter plans to use more phalaris when he renovates pastures, because of its deeper root system compared to some other perennial grasses. While phalaris needs to be well managed, as a deep-rooted perennial it has potential to build soil carbon while providing a long-term feed supply.
- Turning cattle off sooner: When it comes to turning cattle off faster, Peter looks to genetics and herd management activities to support productivity gains. For instance, when cattle reach their sale weight faster, it shortens their time in the paddock producing methane. This lowers the emissions intensity of a production system.
- Encouraging dung beetle activity: As dung beetles feed on manure, they incorporate carbon into the soil.
Peter Star is participating in MLA-supported dung beetle trials and, after earlier releases of dung beetles by Upper Murray Landcare groups, populations are now widespread and highly effective.
Source: MLA – Meat & Livestock Australia