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Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals

Revised greenhouse-gas emissions from Australian dairy farms following application of updated methodology

K. M. Christie A D , R. P. Rawnsley A , C. Phelps B and R. J. Eckard C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, University of Tasmania, Burnie, Tas. 7320, Australia.

B Dairy Australia, Level 5 IBM Tower, Southbank, Vic. 3006, Australia.

C Faculty of Veterinary and Animal Science, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic. 3010, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Animal Production Science -
Submitted: 4 May 2016  Accepted: 26 September 2016   Published online: 16 November 2016


Every year since 1990, the Australian Federal Government has estimated national greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions to meet Australia’s reporting commitments under the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (NGGI) methodology used to estimate Australia’s GHG emissions has altered over time, as new research data have been used to improve the inventory emission factors and algorithms, with the latest change occurring in 2015 for the 2013 reporting year. As measuring the GHG emissions on farm is expensive and time-consuming, the dairy industry is reliant on estimating emissions using tools such as the Australian Dairy Carbon Calculator (ADCC). The present study compared the emission profiles of 41 Australian dairy farms with ADCC using the old (pre-2015) and new (post-2015) NGGI methodologies to examine the impact of the changes on the emission intensity across a range of dairy-farm systems. The estimated mean (±s.d.) GHG emission intensity increased by 3.0%, to 1.07 (±0.02) kg of carbon dioxide equivalents per kilogram of fat-and-protein-corrected milk (kg CO2e/kg FPCM). When comparing the emission intensity between the old and new NGGI methodologies at a regional level, the change in emission intensity varied between a 4.6% decrease and 10.4% increase, depending on the region. When comparing the source of emissions between old and new NGGI methodologies across the whole dataset, methane emissions from enteric fermentation and waste management both increased, while nitrous oxide emissions from waste management and nitrogen fertiliser management, CO2 emissions from energy consumption and pre-farm gate (supplementary feed and fertilisers) emissions all declined. Enteric methane remains a high source of emissions and so will remain a focus for mitigation research. However, these changes to the NGGI methodology have highlighted a new ‘hotspot’ in methane from manure management. Researchers and farm managers will have greater need to identify and implement practices on-farm to reduce methane losses to the environment.

Additional keywords: carbon dioxide, ADCC, methane, nitrous oxide.


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