The role of grazing animals in sequestering carbon

The role of grazing animals in sequestering carbon

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The future of livestock grazing is bright if we care about the environment, our health, wellbeing and a strong economy.

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STORY BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE ALLIANCE AND FARMING TOGETHER PROGRAM.

The future of livestock grazing is bright if we care about the environment, our health, wellbeing and a strong economy.

However, it will be dictated by our capacity to remove bias and truly examine these complex issues from a holistic perspective.

The decisions we face will not be easy. They will come with a period of immense adjustment.

It will take both strong leadership and capital investment to ease the initial financial burden and navigate the change.

Grazing animals make a vital contribution to the sustainability and regeneration of our landscapes.

Hooved animals have a role to play in sequestration of carbon and removing CO2 (greenhouse gas emissions) from the atmosphere and capturing moisture in the soil.

These animals are an essential tool to regenerating grasslands and preventing our landscapes from turning into deserts.

Rotationally grazed, hoofed animals (through their herding affect and hoof impact) in healthy mixed species pastures are an essential management tool for the future.

This is also commonly referred to as holistic management practices. In the simplest of terms, by grazing the top layers of pastures and grasslands, hoofed animals encourage the photosynthesis process to accelerate.

Plant growth speeds up, new plant shoots emerge, extending healthy root systems under the ground, creating humus which feeds soil fauna and microbes, thus continuously building our soil profiles.

Along with planting more trees, these regenerative pasture processors are the key to sequestering carbon and removing CO2 from the atmosphere, thus reducing greenhouse gases.

This plays a major role in preventing the planet from overheating and according to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the extinction of over 50 per cent of all known terrestrial and marine species on the planet.

In addition, every percentage of carbon that is sequestrated results in improved water holding capacity.

Therefore, increasing our soil carbon is essential if we are to continue farming in dryer conditions with less water in the future.

The exact percentage correlations between increasing carbon and retaining moisture in the ground is yet to be determined.

However common-sense prevails that a healthy soil profile can retain moisture more so than a compacted soil of limited organic matter.

As a concerned citizen, farmer, mother and researcher, I do believe the future of animal agriculture is a bright one - if we embrace change.

Otherwise we will be left with degraded landscapes that are unable to make an economic return and sustain families.

We already have the tools and knowledge to farm in this new era of uncertainty and adjust our management systems for resilience.

As carbon sequesters, livestock producers are an essential part of the solution to reducing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

On our farm we utilise 'herding affect' and 'rest' to speed up photosynthesis and therefore sequester carbon.

We are carbon farmers who are registered with the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) looking to trade within the next three years.

We aim to increase our stock density by either increasing our stock numbers or reducing the size of our paddocks, moving our livestock across the paddocks, in one mob, in a timely manner, utilising time controlled farming techniques.

Couple this with correcting mineral deficiencies in the soil and other regenerative practices, in the near future, my family will reap the benefits of increased biodiversity and therefore resilience in a changing climate, increased kilos of beef produced per hectare, and increasing our income through selling our carbon to offset the big emitters.

Exciting times ahead for the carbon farmers of the world.

  • Lorraine Gordon is Southern Cross University's Director of Strategic Projects at the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance and Farming Together Program. She is also an Associate Director at Southern Cross University's Centre for Organics Research.
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