Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Sheep greenhouse gas emission intensities under different management practices, climate zones and enterprise types

D. J. Cottle A B D , M. T. Harrison B and A. Ghahramani C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

B Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, University of Tasmania, PO Box 3523, Burnie, Tas. 7320, Australia.

C CSIRO Agriculture, Plant and Soil Modelling Group, GPO Box 1600, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: david.cottle@une.edu.au

Animal Production Science 56(3) 507-518 https://doi.org/10.1071/AN15327
Submitted: 26 June 2015  Accepted: 15 November 2015   Published: 9 February 2016

Abstract

Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from broadacre sheep farms constitute ~16% of Australia’s total livestock emissions. To study the diversity of Australian sheep farming enterprises a combination of modelling packages was used to calculate GHG emissions from three sheep enterprises (Merino ewe production for wool and meat, Merino-cross ewes with an emphasis on lamb production, and Merino wethers for fine wool production) at 28 sites across eight climate zones in southern Australia. GHG emissions per ha, per dry sheep equivalents and emissions intensity (EI) per tonne of clean wool or liveweight sold under different pasture management or animal breeding options (that had been previously determined in interviews with farmers) were assessed relative to baseline farms in each zone (‘Nil’ option). Increasing soil phosphorus fertility or sowing 40% of the farm area to lucerne resulted in the smallest and largest changes in GHG/dry sheep equivalents, respectively (–66%, 113%), though both of these options had little influence on EI for either clean wool or liveweight sold. Breeding ewes with greater body size or genotypes with higher fleece weight resulted in 11% and 9% reductions, respectively, in EI. Enterprises specialising in lamb production (crossbred ewes) had 89% lower EI than enterprises specialising in fine wool production (Merino wethers). Thus, sheep producers aiming for lower EI could focus more on liveweight turnoff than wool production. Emissions intensities were typically highest in cool temperate regions with high rainfall and lowest in semiarid and arid regions with low aboveground net primary productivity. Overall, animal breeding options reduced EI more than feedbase interventions.

Additional keywords: animal breeding, methane, sheep systems modelling.


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