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16.04.15 The Farm 300 project, Australia

16th Apr 2015

The weather down here in Cornwall seems to have turned for the better recently. I for one am enjoying the extended evenings, the sunshine and a general feeling of optimism that seems to be around when the temperature rises. However during international month here at FCCT, I am turning my attention to the other side of the world, (where, let's face it, this would probably be considered cold weather) where climate variability is proving more problematic for farmers trying to maintain profitable businesses.

Agriculture and land management activities produce almost 17% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions with 60% of those emissions coming from livestock. The information below is a few key facts and figures about Australia’s livestock industry to put it in perspective.

Sheep

  • Australian National Sheep flock is 75.5 million head
  • Australia is one of the world’s leading producers of lamb and mutton
  • Off-farm meat value of Australian sheep meat industry is $4.2 billion
  • 42,012 properties with sheep and lambs
  • Sheepmeat industry accounts for 33% of all farms with agricultural activities

 

Beef

  • National cattle herd stands at 29.3 million
  • 76,807 properties with cattle
  • 13.4 million beef cows and heifers
  • The beef industry accounts for 55% of all farms with agricultural activity
  • Red meat industry employs approximately 200,000 workers across farm, processing and retail

Source: Meat and Livestock Australia

 

Farm 300 project

The Farm 300 project has been developed by the Meat and Livestock Australia and offers cattle and sheep advisor training and support to build practical knowledge and skills that can boost on-farm production and profitability by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from livestock.

The project is tasked with raising awareness and understanding of the practical options available to farmers in different production systems to improve profitability and efficiency while at the same time reducing emissions by creating groups looking at different areas. Farmers within these groups attend meetings and seminars and try out the methods at home. The project monitors the effect and then reports back.

The website is following 6 producers through creating videos at the start and throughout the year. If you want to watch them then click here. At the moment the website has the introductory videos on it, and as new ones are uploaded I will try and post the link again.

Focus groups

Groups that have been formed include:

  • A sheep farmer who is focussing on increasing stocking rate and matching it to the carrying capacity
  • A cattle producer looking at using a by-product of the wine making industry as a supplementary feed source to improve kg/head and reduce emissions.
  • A sheep producer matching stocking rate with feed availability in a changing climate
  • A cattle and sheep farmer looking at alternative pasture species and feed to fill feed gaps, increase efficiency and reduce methane emissions
  • A mixed farmer who is measuring the efficiency, emissions and profitability of the family’s feedlot.

 

The last farmer comments in his video:

Talking with a lot of the other group members in our Farm 300 group, it’s quite interesting with the GHG emissions and farm 300 and also where we’re wanting to go in terms of being more profitable and turning stock off earlier, being more efficient. I think that we are all heading in the same direction anyway and it is, if anything, reiterating what we’re doing and enforcing our practices that we’re trying to do because the margin is getting smaller and smaller and we need to figure out ways to increase it.

This group of farmers round here, we’re all pretty conscious of the environment anyway, to be sustainable we have to be; in order for us to be profitable we need to go down this path anyway."

As well as setting up these groups, the project has made videos looking at climate champion farmers who have already started doing things to help improve profitability and reduce emissions. I’ll post those videos up tomorrow.