Agricultural greenhouse gases & the New Zealand beef & sheep sectors

Quick facts

  • Forty-nine percent of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture.
  • At the same time, more than 38% of New Zealand's merchandisable exports come from agriculture. 
  • New Zealand's beef, wool and sheep meat industries contribute eight, 27 and 75% respectively, to their world marketplaces.

What's changed in the beef & sheep sectors since 1990 in on farm practices?

Beef

  • Reduction in breeding herd numbers
  • Increased number of finishing cattle - use of dairy origin animals for finishing
  • Feed management strategies
  • Pasture management strategies

Sheep

  • Breeding and flock testing for animals with improved genetic merit (gorwth, reproduction)
  • Use of pregnancy scanning
  • Hogget mating
  • Pasture management (growth quality)
  • Optimisation of stock numbers to pasture growth

What's the impact of these on farm changes on productivity?

Beef

  • Faster growth rates
  • Increased finished weight of animal
  • Increased meat yield per hectare (kg meat/ha) 

Sheep

  • Increased lambing percentage
  • Increased number of offspring per ewe
  • Increased finished weight of animal (lamb)
  • Increased meat yield per hectare (kg meat/ha)

What's the effect of these changes on emissions intensity? 

Emissions intensity of New Zealand beef and sheep sector is lower.  For the beef sector, a great proportion of feed goes to production rather than maintenance and for the sheep sector, a lower ewe population is producing the equivalent lamb meat.

What's the latest from industry?

Beef+Lamb New Zealand Read more

On farm practice change summary tables

Beef

On farm practice Effect on farm productivity Effect on emissions intensity (net)

Reduction in breeding herd numbers

 

Increased number of finishing cattle - use of dairy origin animals for finishing 

 

Feed management strategies

 

Pasture management strategies 

Faster growth rates

 

Increased finished weight of animal

 

Increased meat yield per hectare (kg meat/ha) 

Lower

 

* A greater proportion of feed going to production rather than maintenance *


Sheep

On farm practice Effect on farm productivity Effect on emissions intensity (net)

Breeding and flock testing for animals with improved genetic merit (gorwth, reproduction)

 

Use of pregnancy scanning

 

Hogget mating

 

Pasture management (growth quality)

 

Optimisation of stock numbers to pasture growth

Increased lambing percentage 

 

Increased number of offspring per ewe

 

Increased finished weight of animal (lamb)

 

Increased meat yield per hectare (kg meat/ha) 

 

Lower

 

* Lower ewe population needed to produce equivalent lamb meat *

 

What else is being done to lower emissions on farm?

The NZAGRC is working in partnership with the PGgRc to explore options to mitigate GHGs on New Zealand farms.  An overview publication is available for download

pdf NZAGRC_PGgRC_What are we doing_ed2.pdf (17.12MB)

or you can read about our research programme

More information

Sixty years of seasonal irrigation affects carbon storage in soils beneath pasture grazed by sheep

Kelliher, F. M., Condron, L. M., Cook, F. J., & Black, A. (2012). Sixty years of seasonal irrigation affects carbon storage in soils beneath pasture grazed by sheep. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 148, 29-36

Abstract

For sixty years at Winchmore, South Island, New Zealand (43°48′S, 171°48′E, 160 masl), stoney soils under continuous pasture grazing by sheep have received rainfall (nil irrigation) or rainfall and irrigation as required during summer. This consistently managed, replicated field trial presents a unique opportunity to examine long-term treatment effects on pastoral soil. Samples were recently excavated at intervals to a depth of 1 m and the total carbon (C) storage measured. In the irrigated plots, soil C storage (9.1 ± 0.3 kg C m−2, mean ± standard error, n = 3) was significantly less (p < 0.05) than in plots receiving rainfall alone (13.4 ± 0.8 kg C m−2). We estimated irrigation induced a 36% increase of C inputs to the soil on an annual basis, mostly as litter fall. Using a respiration model based on soil temperature and water content inputs, irrigation was also estimated to have induced a 97% increase in rate of annual C loss to the atmosphere. On this basis, the estimated irrigation effects had reduced C storage by 61% (97–36%), reasonably accounting for the 47% treatment effect determined by soil sampling.

Read more (external website)


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