Methane emissions from livestock account for approximately 10 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions and over half of this comes from cattle grazing in northern Australia. An estimated 2-12 per cent of the energy ingested by cattle is lost as methane waste, reducing beef production and costing graziers money. The northern Australia beef industry is vital to the economy of the region, and aims to implement best practice in sustainable management.
The Livestock Methane Emissions Research Cluster is a collaborative project that aims to develop accurate and practical methods to measure and reduce livestock methane emissions in northern Australia. Led by the University of Melbourme, it will draw on the skills of world-leading research institutes to accurately measure methane emissions from livestock under real grazing conditions.
The project aims to advance measurement methods and animal enteric models for measuring methane in livestock systems. It also aims to validate, integrate and further develop existing measurement technologies to quantify methane fluxes under field conditions. This will allow for the production of reliable quantified enteric methane emission measurements from the northern beef industry and identify key drivers of emissions in order to improve mitigation strategies for the livestock industry.
The team will use a range of sophisticated instruments including open path lasers and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) as well as aircraft mounted cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS) based detectors to measure methane in the atmosphere. A laser beam is sent across a paddock for a few hundred metres and then reflected back to a detector, allowing emission levels to be calculated using computer modelling.
The development of field-based measurement techniques will support the implementation of management strategies to reduce methane emissions, enabling farmers to participate in the Carbon Farming Initiative and earn 'carbon credits'.
This project is funded by the CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture Flagship Collaboration Fund, with support from several other Australian universities and research teams in Canada.