Dairy NZ is giving a series of workshops on livestock farming and greenhouse gases. They are delivering it on behalf of MAF so there is a fair amount of Government propaganda delivered. “We need an ETS or they won’t buy our produce ” sort of propaganda. On balance they did deliver it in a manner that accepted the widespread scepticism about global warming and the need for an ETS.
Allowing for the scepticism the purpose was to explain the mechanisms of the ETS and what farmers could and should do to lessen the impact of it to rural professionals so that they can advise their farmer clients.
The short answer was that there are some things farmers can do to reduce their emissions but that there is no incentive in the ETS for farmers to do so. This is because every kg of milk solid and every kg of meat processed will attract a universal charge regardless of what farm system was used. For example a farmer using DCD might get a reduction in nitrous oxide produced, but they will pay the same emission charge per kg MS as the farmer that did not use DCD.
The emissions of a number of different farming systems were compared ranging from winter milk, seasonal supply, high stocking rate, low stocking rate, high BW cows, low BW cows, high input, low input and systems using DCD. Dry stock farms were more difficult to compare because of the wide range of possible scenarios but some examples were given.
The intensity of emissions (kg CO2e per kg product ) did vary under each system but it was not significant. It was certainly not worth changing farming systems for.
In the end the point they did make was that farmers would be profit driven and that would be the deciding factor between farming systems not the relative emissions of each system.
The general concept that came through was that the higher the per animal production the less emissions per kg product. It also seemed to come through in the profit figures for the different systems that the higher the production per animal the greater the profit.
In the case of meat production the ETS does provide an incentive to kill heavier animals because emissions are calculated on a per kg of meat basis and a stock number basis.
So for dairy farmers you will save the planet and maybe your wallet by increasing per head production not per ha. An interesting point was made that the genetics of the national herd will increase automatically every year and so too does each animal’s requirement for feed. In five years time a farm will either have to reduce stocking rate or increase purchased feed to utilise the increased genetic potential of the herd. This will result in higher per head production and lower emissions per kg of product.
So there is not much farmers can and should do apart from be prepared to pay some of their hard earned money to a forester somewhere, or buy a forest yourself.
Not that we have given up the fight, we still maintain these emissions are bullshit emissions and I did cause confusion at the meeting when I asked what effect livestock emissions of methane from steady state production has on the atmosphere. The answer from Dairy NZ and the ETS consultant they had there was that it has no effect, it does not increase it.
Yipee I thought. They agree with what we say. Then they put up a chart showing why a farm is a net emitter. It showed a farm that is in steady state (not increasing production) and the flow of carbon dioxide equivalents from the atmosphere and back. This chart showed a net emission of CO2equivalents. So I questioned them, I said they had just acknowledged there is no increase in CO2 or CH4 in the atmosphere yet the chart they use shows an increase in CO2e. I said that the chart does not reflect the reality. They were unable to reconcile this or explain it. I did not want to disrupt the meeting so I did not pursue it but they had no answer. They do though agree with us that livestock farmed in steady state does not cause an increase in atmospheric methane.
Unfortunately for them they also agree with MAF that warming occurs in steady state situations because livestock cause CO2 to become CH4 and CH4 has a higher global warming potential.
So they agree that steady state animal production does not cause global warming and they agree that it does. They are in contradiction with themselves and that is an impossible situation.
I have since emailed them and asked for clarification. I explained to them that this chart was MAF propaganda and did not stack up. The emissions MAF claim exist do not exist. I further said that Dairy NZ was a farmer funded organisation and should be working for the farmers not for MAF and that they should check MAF’s material before delivering it to farmers. I said it nicely so I do expect a reply.
The meetings are for ‘rural professionals’ and there are a few still to run if you want to go, the dates are below you do need to register . It is free and they put on a snack for you too. To register click here If you want to go and ask them the same question I did let me know I’ll email you the information.
|Lower North Island||4 August||Wharerata Function Centre, University Avenue, Massey University, Palmerston North|
|Nelson||10 August||Leisure Lodge, 40 Waimea Road, Nelson|
|Canterbury||17 August||Commodore Airport Hotel, 449 Memorial Avenue Christchurch|
|Southland||18 August||Ascot Park Hotel, corner of Tay Street & Racecourse Road, Invercargill|
There is also one in Northland for farmers, it is at the research farm in Dargaville. It is on the 1st September, details on Dairy NZ website. Apparently they have had others around the country but I was not able to get the dates for them.