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The Influence of Climate, Soil and Pasture Type on Productivity and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Intensity of Modeled Beef Cow-Calf Grazing Systems in Southern Australia
Melbourne School of Land and Environment, University of Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia
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Received: 8 August 2012; in revised form: 14 September 2012 / Accepted: 19 September 2012 / Published: 1 October 2012
Simple Summary: Livestock production systems and the agricultural industries in general face challenges to meet the global demand for food, whilst also minimizing their environmental impact through the production of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Livestock grazing systems in southern Australia are low input and reliant on pasture as a low-cost source of feed. The balance between productivity and GHG emission intensity of beef cow-calf grazing systems was studied at sites chosen to represent a range of climatic zones, soil and pasture types. While the climatic and edaphic characteristics of a location may impact on the emissions from a grazing system, management to efficiently use pasture can reduce emissions per unit product.
Abstract: A biophysical whole farm system model was used to simulate the interaction between the historical climate, soil and pasture type at sites in southern Australia and assess the balance between productivity and greenhouse gas emissions (expressed in carbon dioxide equivalents, CO2-eq.) intensity of beef cow-calf grazing systems. Four sites were chosen to represent a range of climatic zones, soil and pasture types. Poorer feed quality and supply limited the annual carrying capacity of the kikuyu pasture compared to phalaris pastures, with an average long-term carrying capacity across sites estimated to be 0.6 to 0.9 cows/ha. A relative reduction in level of feed intake to productivity of calf live weight/ha at weaning by feeding supplementary feed reduced the average CO2-eq. emissions/kg calf live weight at weaning of cows on the kikuyu pasture (18.4 and 18.9 kg/kg with and without supplementation, respectively), whereas at the other sites studied an increase in intake level to productivity and emission intensity was seen (between 10.4 to 12.5 kg/kg without and with supplementary feed, respectively). Enteric fermentation and nitrous oxide emissions from denitrification were the main sources of annual variability in emissions intensity, particularly at the lower rainfall sites. Emissions per unit product of low input systems can be minimized by efficient utilization of pasture to maximize the annual turnoff of weaned calves and diluting resource input per unit product.
Keywords: beef cow-calf; modeling; location; greenhouse gas emissions; grazing system
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MDPI and ACS Style
Bell, M.J.; Cullen, B.R.; Eckard, R.J. The Influence of Climate, Soil and Pasture Type on Productivity and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Intensity of Modeled Beef Cow-Calf Grazing Systems in Southern Australia. Animals 2012, 2, 540-558.
Bell MJ, Cullen BR, Eckard RJ. The Influence of Climate, Soil and Pasture Type on Productivity and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Intensity of Modeled Beef Cow-Calf Grazing Systems in Southern Australia. Animals. 2012; 2(4):540-558.
Bell, Matthew J.; Cullen, Brendan R.; Eckard, Richard J. 2012. "The Influence of Climate, Soil and Pasture Type on Productivity and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Intensity of Modeled Beef Cow-Calf Grazing Systems in Southern Australia." Animals 2, no. 4: 540-558.