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

Carbon-neutral wool farming in south-eastern Australia

Natalie A. Doran-Browne A D , John Ive B , Phillip Graham C and Richard J. Eckard A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic. 3010, Australia.

B Talaheni, PO Box 337, Hall, ACT 2618, Australia.

C NSW Department of Primary Industries, PO Box 10, Yass, NSW 2582, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: n.doran-browne@unimelb.edu.au

Animal Production Science 56(3) 417-422 https://doi.org/10.1071/AN15541
Submitted: 15 September 2015  Accepted: 5 December 2015   Published: 9 February 2016

Abstract

Ruminant livestock production generates higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) compared with other types of farming. Therefore, it is desirable to reduce or offset those emissions where possible. Although mitigation options exist that reduce ruminant GHGE through the use of feed management, flock structure or breeding management, these options only reduce the existing emissions by up to 30% whereas planting trees and subsequent carbon sequestration in trees and soil has the potential for livestock emissions to be offset in their entirety. Trees can introduce additional co-benefits that may increase production such as reduced salinity and therefore increased pasture production, shelter for animals or reduced erosion. Trees will also use more water and compete with pastures for water and light. Therefore, careful planning is required to locate trees where the co-benefits can be maximised instead of any negative trade-offs. This study analysed the carbon balance of a wool case study farm, Talaheni, in south-eastern Australia to determine if the farm was carbon neutral. The Australian National Greenhouse Gas Inventory was used to calculate GHGE and carbon stocks, with national emissions factors used where available, and otherwise figures from the IPCC methodology being used. Sources of GHGE were from livestock, energy and fuel, and carbon stocks were present in the trees and soil. The results showed that from when the farm was purchased in 1980–2012 the farm had sequestered 11 times more carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) in trees and soil than was produced by livestock and energy. Between 1980 and 2012 a total of 31 100 t CO2e were sequestered with 19 300 and 11 800 t CO2e in trees and soil, respectively, whereas farm emissions totalled 2800 t CO2e. There was a sufficient increase in soil carbon stocks alone to offset all GHGE at the study site. This study demonstrated that there are substantial gains to be made in soil carbon stocks where initial soils are eroded and degraded and there is the opportunity to increase soil carbon either through planting trees or introducing perennial pastures to store more carbon under pastures. Further research would be beneficial on the carbon-neutral potential of farms in more fertile, high-rainfall areas. These areas typically have higher stocking rates than the present study and would require higher levels of carbon stocks for the farm to be carbon neutral.

Additional keywords: climate, greenhouse gases, policy, resource management, sheep.


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