Gippsland farmers act to reduce carbon emissions

By Stephen Cooke

TWO GIPPSLAND dairy farmers have utilised new technology to undertake an environmental assessment of their farms.

The new Dairy EA environmental assessment utilises an holistic approach on farm, measuring overall efficiency and performance to deliver a carbon footprint of the farm and solutions on how to reduce it.

Gippsland farmer Simon Coster, Cloverlea, near Warragul, said he decided to complete the assessment as he wanted to find areas in his business to improve.

“It also provides a comparison of how our farm does against other farms, as we can benchmark against Victorian farmers or against other pasture-based systems.

“Hopefully I’m leading the field with what we’ve implemented.”

Mr Coster had the necessary data at hand and worked with Alltech E-CO2 co-ordinator for Alltech Oceania, Susanne Roth, on his assessment.

There are between 300–400 questions asked across the areas of herd size, milk production, heifer management, feed intake, herd health, culling, calving, cropping, feritliser use and fuel and electricity use.

The anonymous farm information is sent to E-CO2 headquarters in London and the report shows the contribution of emissions to each source, including manure emissions, artificial fertiliser use, nitrous oxide from manure and grazing, methane from rumen and feed use.

Although the report indicates the emission of CO2e (Carbon dioxide equivalent)/kg of milk solids, it also highlights the farm’s strengths and provides steps on how to improve.

Jindivick dairy farmer Steve Ronalds had his herd assessed earlier this year.

“Our farm result was 30 per cent better than the Victorian average,” Mr Ronalds said.

However, he is working on reducing his carbon footprint by 5 per cent.

Most farms can reduce their footprint by 5–7 per cent through different methods, including reducing heifer calving age, reducing mastitis, reducing culling rate and achieving a better balance of manure application to fertiliser.

Reports have shown the largest dairy herd cost, feed, offers the greatest potential for improving profitability and carbon performance.

Mastitis also contribute as it affects a herd’s fertility and productivity.

Mr Ronalds established the Gippsland Jersey milk brand, with business partner Sallie Jones, and said it has been good to know what their emissions are when asked by customers.

Animal nutrition company Alltech has now conducted more than 6000 assessments in Europe, the US and now Australia.

UK supermarket chain, Tesco, has used the system to assess the carbon footprint of its dairy farmers who are part of the TSDG (Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group).

Dr Roth said the DAIRY EA assessments have now achieved accreditation by the Carbon Trust for Australia and each farmer will receive a personalised sustainability and efficiency report.

“Assessments are directly linked to physical and financial performance, where custom feeding regimes and management practices can be developed to sustainably improve farm efficiency and profitability,” Dr Roth said.

Recent environmental assessments conducted by Alltech E-CO2 on 58 dairy and 11 beef units across Europe has shown how farm efficiency improvements can boost profitability whilst also reducing the carbon footprint of the enterprise.

In the study, which was carried out utilising Alltech E-CO2 environmental tools, various herd efficiency improvements delivered an average of €238 (AUS $358) extra per cow per year for dairy and there was a significant drop in carbon emissions.