Beef producers embracing ag tech to decrease carbon emissions

North Burnett graziers unlock carbon credits with help from innovative agriculture technologies

Beef Cattle
SUSTAINABLE FARMING: The Henderson family have unlocked carbon markets at their North Burnett grazing property. Photos: Supplied.

SUSTAINABLE FARMING: The Henderson family have unlocked carbon markets at their North Burnett grazing property. Photos: Supplied.

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How a Queensland beef operation is becoming part of the climate change solution.

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As Australia grows closely to becoming carbon neutral by 2050, Queensland farmers are taking steps of their own, by embracing technology to decrease their carbon footprint in the meat industry.

Following the trauma of the millennium drought from 2001 to 2010, North Burnett beef producers James Henderson and his father, John, chose to explore new ways of managing their land sustainably.

The Hendersons run a breeding and backgrounding operation on 5,400 hectares across three properties in the North Burnett and Central Queensland regions.

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While beef remains at the core of their business, the family is also overseeing two carbon farming projects, which they say has been providing a significant secondary income stream at their breeding property at Colodan, near Monto, since 2018.

Drought behind management re-think 

Mr Henderson said the loss of productivity in their pastures and cattle during the drought, had highlighted the need to rethink their farming practices.

"Coming out of that millennial drought we started to do a lot of things differently. The Burnett region suffered significantly and our properties copped a fair flogging from that, so we started changing our management practices," Mr Henderson said.

"My wife Kylie and I began utilising multiple regenerative practices - connecting economic, ecological and social considerations in a strategic big picture view.

"Our on-farm carbon farming projects include avoiding broad scale tree clearing activities and implementing practices to repopulate and regenerate our eucalyptus forest areas.

"The resulting dynamic tree-grass balance has enabled our property at Colodan to become more resilient to major climate events such as drought and extreme rainfall events.

"We've got a better bottom line for it and we're getting paid to basically grow our trees, where it used to be a cost."

THRIVING: James henderson with his wife Kylie and three children Douglas, Thomas and Emily at their breeding property Colodan, near Monto.

THRIVING: James henderson with his wife Kylie and three children Douglas, Thomas and Emily at their breeding property Colodan, near Monto.

Through implementing these practices that are known to improve the rate at which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and converted to plant material and soil organic matter, the Hendersons have earnt Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) which can be sold to provide supplemental income on their Monto property.

Limited impact to cattle production 

Mr Henderson said they're very confident that these carbon farming projects intertwine well with their beef operation, without hurting their overall cattle production.

"The trees on our property are a great asset, and we don't see them as a liability. We've established carbon forestry enterprises using the same land as our existing cattle enterprise," he said.

"We've been able to achieve significantly higher revenue than in the past, which is a indicative of the higher price we're receiving for our stock due to improved cattle productivity.

"We're currently looking at our fourth year of below average rainfall and that's critical to the way we manage our carbon projects, because you've got to keep an eye on your ground cover and maintain that environment the best you can."

PROVEN EFFICIENCY: The Hendersons use MOOvement GPS ear tags, which allows them to track and trace their cattle over long distances.

PROVEN EFFICIENCY: The Hendersons use MOOvement GPS ear tags, which allows them to track and trace their cattle over long distances.

Tapping into innovative technology to help

Mr Henderson said their interest in agriculture technology come on board when they needed alternative systems to track their herd's movements.

"We currently use three big technology devices across our properties. These include, Observant Water Monitoring stations, used to monitor water levels in our cattle troughs, another is AgriWebb a farm management software, which maintains our inventory and stock planning, and we also use Moovement GPS tags, which track the movement of our stock," he said.

"We're hoping we will be able to achieve a cumulative point in a couple of years time, where we can look back and analyse the data from the GPS tags. This will ensure we can help maintain that balance between carbon and our beef we produce."

Early this year, James joined Ag Force's Young Producers Council, a group of 18-40 year old young beef producers, to offer a representative voice for all young producers striving to succeed in agriculture.

Mr Henderson believes there's huge potential for farmers to tap into growing carbon market.

"Agriculture should be a part of the climate solution, as long we don't miss out on opportunities. As producers, we need to understand the options that are available to our operations," he said.

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