Sunday, April 21, 2024

How one farmer is shrinking his footprint

Neal Wallace
Roslyn Downs is closing in on its targets gram by gram, lamb by lamb.
Gore, Invercargill, Winton, Southland
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Determining the greenhouse gas emissions from Roslyn Downs has not been a short-term project.

Jason Miller and his family own the 620ha property at Glencoe at the foot of Southland’s Hokonui Hills, and for several years they have worked to implement the Farm Assurance Plan-plus programme, which also reveals their greenhouse gas emissions.

They are close to complying and Miller said knowing his farm’s emissions reflects what global customers of New Zealand lamb and beef require, which he has observed in his role as an Alliance Group director.

“So much commentary is looking internally,” he said of NZ discussion on the topic. It ignores the climate change concerns of the country’s global consumers.

“Significant markets are moving in that direction, such as the United Kingdom and European Union. They are way down that path and not looking like stopping.”

He has calculated that Roslyn Downs, a sheep and beef breeding and finishing property, emits about 1500t of carbon dioxide a year.

Calculating the figure and finding solutions has required time and an open mind.

Given the farms flat to rolling topography, he has limited options for forestry sequestration other than shelter belts and small woodlots, which are not large enough to be officially recognised under present guidelines.

Miller said the best option is to improve productivity.

A project some years ago with the Sainsbury’s supermarket chain found his lambs grew on average 270 grams a day from birth to slaughter.

If they can lift that weight gain to 300g/day and his meat production from the current 350-360kg/ha to 400kg/ha, efficiency will lower his carbon footprint, improve productivity and profitability.

Improving grass quality and management will help meet those targets.

Every farm and every farmer is different and he acknowledges those on hill country may have fewer options, but he urges people to start calculating their emissions as NZ’s global customers want farmers to act.

“People overseas are far more urbanised and disconnected from rural areas than here. They don’t want to hear that you can’t. This is important to them and they want to know we are engaged and are doing something.”

Miller said farmers need to take control of the issue as it can lead to businesses becoming more productive, financially and environmentally sustainable and profitable.

“From our point of view, we can see a way through this. What we can’t see way through, is if the government comes and tells us ‘This is what is going to be done.’”

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