Carbon farming: managing pastures to reduce sheep methane emissions

Page last updated: Monday, 20 January 2020 - 3:47pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Feed intake and methane emissions are influenced by the digestibility of the pasture and the concentration of plant secondary compounds such as tannins. Maintaining a higher proportion of legumes is a strategy that farmers could adopt to reduce methane emissions.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development provides this information to support land manager decisions about investing in carbon farming.

Benefits of managing pastures to reduce sheep methane emissions

Carbon benefits with an approved methodology do not exist. However, there are eligible emissions reduction activities under the Emission Reduction Fund.

Co-benefit from managing pastures to decrease methane production is that pasture productivity usually increases.

Opportunities in managing pastures for methane reduction:

  • It is relevant to all sheep enterprises, excluding the pastoral zone where legumes fail to persist.
  • There is a potential for alternative legumes to increase profit and reduce emissions.
  • Methane emissions could be reduced as much as 25% in pure legume pastures compared to pure grass pastures.
  • Saltbush and some other browse plants reduce methane emissions.

Risks of managing pastures to reduce sheep methane emissions

  • There is no approved methodology for this activity.
  • There are no accurate techniques for measuring feed intake and methane emissions from livestock in commercial grazing situations.
  • The additionality test will determine if this activity is eligible for carbon credits.
  • There is unpredictable variation in methane emissions between animals and across differing environments.
  • Carbon price is highly variable.
  • Pasture composition varies widely between seasons, and maintaining a high legume content may be difficult in some seasonal sequences.

Contact information

Mandy Curnow
+61 (0)8 9892 8422