Will there be more money in non-farming than farming

There was lively debate on the panel session of dinner event component at our Field Day. It is well known that Mick Keogh from Australian Farm Institute has a fairly conservative view about the benefits for farmers from the Carbon Farming Initiative. Keen to put forward a balanced  perspective we invited Stephen Wiedemann from FSA who says he sits in the middle and already has some projects for the pig industry in the pipeline that may deliver for farmers. And at the other end of the spectrum to Mick was Louisa Kiely the glass half full girl on the panel and co-founder of Carbon Farmers of Australia who have developed a trading model for soil carbon which gives farmers access to markets before the formal Emissions Trading Scheme begins.

Panel Session

Dr Richard Eckard Mick Keogh Dr Neil Moss Stephen Wiedemann and Louisa Kiely provided a lively debate

I was MC for the event and currently waiting on the photographers in the room to send me pictures so I can share some of the insights from the podium and the floor with you. Not forgetting Department Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry taped the entire event ( not sure how long that will take to be a wrap).

Dinner at Jamberoo School of Arts

Lots of questions from a diverse audience

So I thought in the meantime I would share some of Mick’s humour  on the CFI with you.

This excerpt comes from  If I get paid for not having cows, can I get paid a lot more for not having a lot more cows?

There has been a steady stream of publicity about farmers starting to make money out of carbon farming, but it seems the only way to actually generate real money will be by destocking cattle. This begs the question – if I plan to have a lot of cattle then agree not to, can I get paid more than if I just planned to have a few cattle then decide not to?!!

A rough estimate is that each adult cow generates approximately 2 tonnes CO2-e per annum, so each cow not run on a property presumably could generate $46 in offset credits in the official carbon market from July 2012 – presuming that by then a Methodology involving destocking cattle has been recognised under the Carbon Farming Initiative legislation.


Whether or not such a methodology will be accepted is an interesting question! Destocking cattle on one property will reduce national beef production, resulting in higher prices (all else being equal) which will encourage either Australian or overseas cattle producers to increase their cattle numbers, with the result being no net change in cattle emissions in the atmosphere (a phenomena known as ‘leakage’).

If a destocking methodology is recognised under the Carbon Farming Initiative, it raises some interesting questions for livestock producers. For example, if destocking credits are calculated based on a reduction from current cattle or sheep numbers, the best thing to do would be to absolutely stack on stock fence-to-fence, at very high stocking rates, then undertake to get rid of them all! This would generate a lot more credits in perpetuity than would be available for someone with low stock numbers.

In fact, there would be many opportunities generated by such a development. A business opportunity could quickly emerge for properties where stock from farms involved in generating destocking credits could be sent for ‘holidays’ in case the auditor was due to check that stock numbers had been reduced. Conversely, a good market could develop for rental stock – stock that could be ‘borrowed’ for a short while to prove high stock numbers prior to destocking!

Australian farmers have long been envious of their European friends, who for many years have been able to generate money by not farming. Finally it seems the Australian Government has taken up the idea!!

Using the power of poo to save your farm, no bull

Guest post today By Justin Huntsdale ABC Illawarra

It’s not cheap, but you won’t be ‘wasting’ your time – a Jamberoo farming conference has been told using the nutrients from livestock dung could help lower your fertiliser bill and help the environment.



Justin Huntsdale ABC Illawarra gets the lowdown on Dung from Steve Weidemann

Where we see livestock dung, agricultural scientist Stephen Wiedemann sees a great source of nutrients for your crop or a way to power your home.

Animal dung is rich in nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium – all fertilisers a farm spends significant money on – and much of the time it ends up biodegrading in the paddock or in a sewerage system.

“We like to see waste as a liquid fertiliser,” Stephen said.

“In a dairy or any livestock farm the animals only use a small proportion of the energy they consume, so you can improve sustainability if you can then cycle those nutrients around the farm.”

The Toowoomba-based scientist was speaking yesterday at a conference on ‘Clearing the Carbon Confusion’ held at the Lemon Grove farm near Jamberoo on the NSW South Coast.

The day also involved talks from Dr Neil Moss and Associate Professor Richard Eckard who were trying to help local farmers manage their environmental responsibility while still making money.

And while he’s a bit sheepish about being known as the resident livestock ‘poo expert’, Stephen Wiedemann is serious about making a farm more efficient, starting from the backside.

Putting manure on your domestic garden is something we’ve been doing for decades, but applying that principle to a broad acre crop is a different (and significantly more expensive) story.

“It’s a little bit difficult and expensive but it’s easier if you’ve got a larger farm,” he said.

“Infrastructure is a concern because you’re looking at dams, ponds and other treatment facilities and also irrigators so there is a high capital set-up, but once it’s established, it’s not too hard to manage.”

Balancing a farmer’s books and social conscience is not a new problem, but it’s something that is easier with the advice of experts like Stephen.

He describes his specialty as making the point of connection between the environment and farming.

And as farms become bigger as the demand for primary produce increases, the environmental strain grows too.

“Across the industry there’s a trend to expanding farm sizes, which means more cows on less area and one downside to that is you’ve got an issue with how to manage their waste.”

Stephen says, just like we’d use cow manure to fertilise our garden, livestock effluent can be used to replenish paddocks that are depleted from grazing or foraging.

In Germany, effluent management systems that recycle waste are commonplace, and sometimes used to trap methane which then powers households.

He says these additional benefits are some of the carrots that will sell the message to sceptical farmers.

“It’s a challenge for the industry because it’s capital intensive and you’re looking at longer payoffs, especially when farming’s recently been full of tight margins.

“I know a lot of farmers would like to push it off to the corner, but you have to look at other benefits beyond the cash benefits.

“There’s a positive kickback in terms of lower fertiliser usage, but the overall payback may be more in the realm of six years, and that doesn’t look attractive to a farmer.”

Stephen Weidemann talks to Justin Huntsdale from ABC Illawarra