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

Offsets required to reduce the carbon balance of sheep and beef farms through carbon sequestration in trees and soils

Natalie Doran-Browne A C , Mark Wootton B , Chris Taylor A and Richard Eckard A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

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

B Jigsaw Farms, 1874 Hensley Park Road, Hensley Park, Vic. 3301, Australia.

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

Animal Production Science - https://doi.org/10.1071/AN16438
Submitted: 13 July 2016  Accepted: 14 March 2017   Published online: 16 May 2017

Abstract

The sustainability of farming is important to ensure that natural resources remain available into the future. Ruminant livestock production generates more greenhouse gas emissions than other types of agricultural production and most livestock mitigation options to date have a modest greenhouse gas reduction potential (<20%). Trees and soils, by comparison, can sequester large amounts of carbon depending on the availability of land. Previous studies on carbon neutral livestock production have shown that farms with a stocking rate of 8 dry sheep equivalents (DSE)/ha can be carbon neutral or carbon positive by sequestering more carbon than is emitted from the farm. However, the carbon offsets required by farms with higher stocking rates (>20 DSE/ha) has yet to be studied in Australia. The challenge is to sequester enough carbon to offset the higher level of emissions that these higher stocked farms produce. This study calculated the carbon balance of wool, prime lamb and beef enterprises using a range of stocking rates (6–22 DSE/ha) and levels of tree cover in two agroecological zones. Emissions from livestock, energy and transport were offset by the carbon sequestered in trees and soils. Additionally, the carbon balance was calculated of a case study, Jigsaw Farms, an intensive sheep and beef farm in south-eastern Australia. The methods used to calculate emissions and carbon stocks were from the Australian National Greenhouse Gas Inventory. The majority of stocking rates were carbon positive over a 25-year period when 20% of the sheep or beef enterprises were covered with trees. This study demonstrated that substantial reductions can be made in greenhouse gas emissions through the use of carbon sequestration, particularly in trees. The results showed that from 2000 to 2014 Jigsaw Farms reduced its emissions by 48% by sequestering carbon in trees and soil. The analysis of different stocking rates and tree cover provides an important reference point for farmers, researchers and policy analysts to estimate the carbon balance of wool, prime lamb and beef enterprises based on stocking rate and the area of tree cover.

Additional keywords: agricultural systems, animal production, global climate change, greenhouse gases, sustainable grazing systems.


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