Farm300: reducing emissions and boosting productivity

More than 300 beef and sheep producers across Australia are boosting their bottom line while reducing environmental impact. They are participating in the Farm300 program initiated and managed by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and funded by the Australian Government. The program aims to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of cattle and sheep businesses by up to 30% while at the same time boosting profitability and productivity by at least 10%. The program is being delivered in partnership with the Australian Farm Institute (AFI), Australian Wool Innovation, and Dairy Australia.

As part of Farm300, farm advisors have been trained to build their practical knowledge and skills, so they can support producers to adopt new management techniques that will increase productivity and profitability, whilst reducing emissions.

There are 23 Farm300 coaches around the country, each working with one or more producer group(s) to run workshops, discussion forums and one on one coaching sessions. Each coach has used a greenhouse gas calculator with their group to help benchmark baseline emissions, and then to test the impact of different on-farm strategies that look to improve those baseline emissions. AFI’s FarmGAS calculator has been one of the calculators used by coaches, and AFI’s producer case studies were a valuable tool to help illustrate some of the management options to Farm300 producers.

Currently, the main opportunities for livestock producers are to reduce the intensity of livestock emissions; the GHG emissions per kilogram of red meat produced. Therefore, emissions intensity is strongly correlated with increased production efficiency. Implementation of a specific action, such as increasing lambing percentage, may reduce emissions intensity by 30%. If the stock numbers are not increased, this will also result in a 30% reduction in net emissions.

Some of the other ways producers are increasing productivity whilst reducing emissions include improving reproductive efficiency (ie increased lamb or calf marking percentages) or improving pasture utilisation to speed up turn-off times.

Farm300 aims to support producers' business objectives, encouraging them to make small and robust adjustments to their enterprise now, rather than wait and be forced to make more radical, and often more costly decisions under stress. Farm300 assists producers to implement a three-step process, to monitor, set triggers and strategies, and put their plan into action, making the process more manageable.

While Farm300 is a two-year program due to finish in May 2015, it aims to leave a lasting legacy by equipping producers and advisors with the tools to manage emissions on-farm, understand and respond to challenges from climate variability and potentially benefit from trading carbon credits while minimising their environmental footprint.

Figure 1:  Farm300 map – locations of coaches.

Further information

Some of the tools developed by Farm300 which are widely available for agricultural producers include:

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Images:  Clare Bellfield