Environmental footprint

The importance of monitoring

By Jeremy Savage, Farm Management Consultant at Macfarlane Rural Business Ltd (MRB)

At Macfarlane Rural Business (MRB), we have been benchmarking our dairy farming clients’ environmental footprint using the decision support tool, FARMAX Dairy. This includes their greenhouse gas emission and nitrogen surplus.

What we’re benchmarking

The FARMAX Dairy Greenhouse Gas report shows greenhouse gas emissions for pastoral farms. Emissions from agriculture are biological, including sources such as methane from livestock digestive systems, and nitrous oxide from animal manure and fertiliser added to the soil. Emissions from fuel use or non-agricultural waste on farms are not covered in these reports.

• Methane (CH4) emissions come from carbon components in the feed dry matter intake of animals. Most methane is the by-product of fermentation in ruminants, which accompanies feed digestion in the rumen. This is called Enteric Methane. The minority of methane comes from livestock manure.

• Nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions come from nitrogen components in soils. Several chemical and biological processes contribute to N2O emissions. FARMAX calculates nitrous oxide emission from excretion from grazing animals and synthetic fertilisers. Various emission factors for different processes are used in the calculation.

• Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions come from urea application.

Some findings

The conversion rate of the MRB clientbase feed to milk production is tight, so there is a very close relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and production.

Most of our clients have a farm system thaift has all cows wintered off, with lactating cows on farm only. Farm systems that winter on, or have heifers at home, will have a higher level of greenhouse gas for their level of production. There is also a strong relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and profitability as calculated by FARMAX. For every tonne of dry matter per hectare of additional greenhouse gas emissions, the profit per hectare has improved by $580. Note that this is the same relationship with feed harvested. The pricing for agriculture in NZ has not yet been confirmed. It is projected to be 2025 when the pricing mechanisms are going to be confirmed and actioned.

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