Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Carbon Farming and Cattle - Can Co-exist

It is not all gloom and doom in the cattle and carbon equation. There seems to have been a position developing that would exclude any mutual benefit. This need not be so.

When cattle are grass grown, then these two issues can be developed alongside one another, according to some advocates. There is a new and potentially exciting market developing for grass grown livestock. This is a niche position that the north of Australia should be aiming to occupy.

Is this a line of production that could be developed for the new AA processing facility in the Darwin region? Afterall, it is possible to develop and finish cattle with high growth and liveweight gains using a leucaena / grass mix.......a mixed pasture possible to use in the region.

A recent article adds to this issue.

It is worth reading some of the articles within the link to the carbon ranch below.
Life down on the carbon farm
20 Sep, 2011 04:00 AM

"Personally," says American conservationist Courtney White, "I think an answer to the climate crisis is to eat more meat—from a carbon ranch".

Mr White's concept of the "carbon ranch" is an opportunity to unite a range of solutions to various challenges, including climate change, farm productivity and regional economic decline.

Currently, Mr White said, "the carbon landscape is broken into pieces, and we often pit each carbon use against each other".

Mr White will tell Australian audiences that carbon can be managed and exploited in ways that unite these uses into a single theme of regeneration of landscapes, communities and economies.

The executive director of the Quivera Coalition in the American South-West, Mr White has been instrumental in developing a rancher-conservationist alliance that has successfully sidestepped the toxic wrangling of landholder-environmentalist relations to produce results satisfactory to all.

He will be talking about the Coalition and the carbon ranch at the Carbon Farming Conference, to be held in Dubbo, NSW, on 27-29 September.

Mr White has developed a "carbon map" to show that rather than a series of separate issues, carbon is common factor across all landscapes and endeavours, from wilderness to city and everywhere in between. "We have to start with the idea that we can put this puzzle together," Mr White said.
He believes that uniting carbon-related issues within the overall framework of climate change can bring exponential benefits to landholders and the regions they live in.

Some progressive ranchers have already begun drawing those pieces together, Mr White said. They are using rotational grazing to boost grass productivity, moving to grassfed beef production versus the lotfed beef more common in the US, selling direct to local urban consumers, and paying attention to ecosystem services.

Some landholders are also engaging with the energy question, including a young New Hampshire farmer he recently met who is growing 100 per cent of his farm's energy needs on 10 per cent of his land.

Sequestering more carbon in the landscape is only half the equation, Mr White said. The other half is lowering farming's emissions footprint.

Lowering emissions through changed energy use, restoring ecological functions and overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is relatively straightforward, in Mr White's view.

More challenging is the question of ruminant methane, an issue that as led to the "eat less red meat" theme now common in discussions of climate change. "For the purposes of a carbon ranch, the methane emission issue is just one part of the overall 'footprint" assessment," Mr White said.

The real challenge is not necessarily to reduce methane production - although that can help with productivity - but to reduce overall farm emissions to the point of becoming carbon-neutral or carbon-negative. At this point, methane emissions become less relevant, leading to Mr White's observation about eating meat from a "carbon ranch".

Along with its direct contribution to addressing climate change, Mr White's vision of the carbon ranch also includes a range of "co-benefits" from uniting the carbon landscape. They include improved ecosystem services, habitat protection, rural economic development, maintenance of culture and diversity, and greater opportunities for succeeding generations.

* More details of Courtney White's "carbon ranch" concept can by found at

* Details of the Carbon Farming Conference can be found here.

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