Researchers modelled the greenhouse gas emissions from three beef cattle herds in Queensland and the Northern Territory, comparing current management practices with alternative strategies.
Under current practices, steers are transferred from the breeding property to a growing out property and then to a backgrounding property, before being transported to a feedlot. Heifers typically are sent from the breeding property to a backgrounding property and then to the feedlot. The alternative scenarios see steers bypassing the growing out property, so they steers spend more time at backgrounding properties and the feedlot. The heifers bypass either of two backgrounding properties to spend more time at the feedlot.
The scenarios modelled compared all emissions sources from each stage of production, including transport between properties and the full life cycle of feeds supplied to the feedlot.
For the steers, bypassing the growing property resulted in a net reduction greenhouse gas emission due to the better feed quality on the backgrounding property – growth rates are faster, so they reach the feedlot at a younger age.
For the heifers, the alternative scenario emissions profile depended on how long they would otherwise have spent at the backgrounding property: the longer the time spent grazing at the backgrounding properties, the greater the opportunity of emissions reduction if the heifers are instead transported directly to the feedlot.
Taylor C, Eckard R (2016). Comparative analysis of greenhouse gas emissions from three beef cattle herds in a corporate farming enterprise. Animal Production Science, 56, 482–494, http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AN15579.