NEW South Wales beef producer, Macka’s Pastoral, says it has reached carbon neutrality in its operation while maintaining on-farm productivity and without the use of large-scale tree planting.
The carbon neutral claim was made with calculations from a range of experts, including Dr Julian Hill from Ternes Scientific and Hayden Hollis from Agricore. It has not been registered with Climate Active, which is the Australian Government’s carbon neutral certification body.
Owned and operated by four generations of the Mackenzie family at Gloucester on the State’s Mid North Coast, Macka’s runs 3,500 commercial breeders and 200 seed stock breeders. The business supplies beef to both the domestic market and export markets in Asia and the Middle East.
Across a managed area of 3,975 hectares, Macka’s has increased its soil carbon during the past 12 months by 0.54t/ha, through improved land management including increased varieties of targeted pasture species, variable rate fertiliser application, mulching and grazing management.
The company says carbon sequestration rate for the area of land under grazing management increased from 1.89t/ha in 2021/22, to 2.43t/ha in 2022/23.
Carbon balances were calculated according to the Australian National Inventory (2021), ISO 14060, which is an international standard for quantifying and reporting greenhouse gas emissions, and PAS 2060, the internationally recognised specification for carbon neutrality.
Macka’s Managing Director, Robert Mackenzie, said it was a significant milestone for not only the family business and its customers, but the Australian red meat industry.
“We decided to start on the path to carbon neutrality when Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), on behalf of the red meat industry, set a target to be carbon neutral by 2030,” Mr Mackenzie said.
“Through the work we have done on-farm, we are providing the market with a set of sustainability credentials that supports our beef production for domestic and international markets. Now, more than ever before, our customers want to know where their food comes from and that it’s sustainably and ethically produced.”
More than 1,200 soil samples were taken in early 2022 across Macka’s farms for testing, backed up by another 1,400 soil samples earlier this year to measure total soil carbon. Under Australia’s Emissions Reduction Fund, soil carbon projects need to demonstrate increases over five years to earn credits.
Dr Hill said in order to determine carbon neutrality, accurate measurement is crucial.
“To ensure that calculations focused on carbon neutrality can be undertaken, data and information must be collected accurately – a practice that Macka’s has achieved,” Dr Hill said.
“Once all animal, land management and soil information was available, calculations were made to determine if a farming system emits more or less than it sequesters – the key indicator for carbon neutrality.
“We have determined using ISO 14060 best practice that Macka’s has achieved a position where more carbon is sequestered than emitted through livestock, fertiliser or other management practices, therefore ensuring a carbon neutral position.”
Hayden Hollis, Director at Agricore, said in order to improve overall soil health and total soil carbon levels across the entire farming operation, Macka’s implemented the Fieldcore Land Management System.
“The system ranks each field’s soil density into standardised management zones of low, medium, high and conservation zones. The Fieldcore platform and annual soil testing methodology ensures full farm transparency to meet Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) guidelines, ISO 14060 and PAS 2060 standards,” Mr Hollis said.
“In conjunction with our annual soil testing methodology, additional total soil carbon testing was completed through NATA and ASPAC accredited laboratories and aligned with ERF guidelines.”
Natasha Greenwood, CBA General Manager Agribusiness, said CBA has had a long and proud relationship supporting Macka’s family-owned business and its growth.
Ms Greenwood said Macka’s tenacity and appetite to trial innovation demonstrates the many opportunities that the transition to a lower carbon footprint presents for agriculture.
“Momentum is building and we’re excited about these opportunities,” Ms Greenwood said.
“The move towards valuing a lower carbon footprint is being consumer-led, supply chain-led, industry-led, and increasingly, producer-led.”
“We understand that farmers are at different stages on their journey towards a lower carbon future and have different goals. We share our customers’ ambitions and we’re here to support them with a comprehensive suite of sustainable financing solutions including Australia’s first Agri Green Loan, energy efficient equipment finance, sustainability-linked loans and carbon financing.”
Improved health, wellbeing and production
According to Mr Mackenzie, among the many benefits Macka’s is enjoying as a result of changes to its on-farm management practices are improvements to animal wellbeing and production.
“We are seeing increased weight gains, which demonstrates the conversion of grass into kilos. We have achieved 94pc conception rates in our cow herd within an eight-week joining period and the cattle’s general appearance is healthier with shinier coats,” he said.
“What we have achieved so far has given us the confidence to take the next step, which is to calculate the carbon balances of the post-farm gate enterprises, including emissions from animals entering backgrounding, lot feeding, transport, processing and to the plate.”
Mr Mackenzie said he hoped that what Macka’s has achieved will demonstrate to other family-owned operations that it can be done cost-effectively while delivering many benefits.
“We have not received one cent of assistance or funding from any government body to do this. We’ve trailblazed and learnt a lot along the way, all of which we are happy to share with our industry and other farmers,” Mr Mackenzie said.
“This is about our dedication to our land, our animals and an industry that we give our heart and soul to every day. We must continue to show the world that Australia produces the finest quality red meat in a sustainable way and as an industry we are committed to becoming carbon neutral, and this is the proof we are doing it.”
Source: Macka’s Pastoral
This is a fantastic achievement that should be celebrated by everyone involved in livestock agriculture, collectively it can be used to counteract the rampant falsehoods being perpetuated by the anti meat climate doomsday proponents.
Congratulations for working on carbon neutrality – I read everything I can to try to understand how we can move towards this, but I am not understanding how to sustain it. Is there an expected ‘flattening’ of the curve of improvements you can make by good land management practices, especially if you were already managing land and pastures in a reasonably well informed manner? What happens in a drier than average year? Will the soil carbon decrease? Is soil moisture variability going to outweigh anything you do management wise? I don’t understand how sequesting carbon through good land and pasture management, (which I assume you were already pretty good at, or you wouldn’t be working in this space), can be the whole story of carbon neutrality, longer term. This is not a criticism of your work so far, nor a criticism of best practice pasture management, just a question about how to sustain carbon neutrality going forward?