How Mort & Co is using new software to measure livestock emissions

Eric Barker, 22/06/2023

AUSTRALIA’S second largest lotfeeder has started using a first of its kind grazing management system it developed, to help producers navigate the complicated world of emissions reduction and reporting.

Known for its innovation, Mort & Co has made a series of moves to help the industry reduce emissions and make production systems more efficient – running large-scale trials of methane-reducing feed additives and developing granulated manure to help put more carbon in the soil.

Now it is using a tool called Predictor Plus, which it developed for forecasting the cash yield of a grazing strategy, to help producers better understand their carbon footprint and to put plans in place to start carbon projects.

“It is quite a simple program, it takes the energy demand of an animal and the energy supply of pasture and merges the two together. The energy supply that your grazing operation delivers to your stock, determines your potential profit,” Mort & Co feed supplement manager Cameron Best said.

“Predictor Plus was originally developed to determine the cash yield of an operation and it turns out that calculating carbon emissions requires virtually the same inputs.” 

Mr Best developed Predictor Plus 12-years-ago after many years of working in the intensive pork and poultry industries.

Mort & Co’s Cameron Best. Photo: Toowoomba Surat Basin Enterprise

“These kind of models were used very aggressively in the intensive industries because minor movements in productivity are big movements in profit,” he said.

“That is also true in a grazing situation, but we tend to manage by the mob average rather than using these objective measurements.”

How does it work?

Predictor Plus draws from a data set of values which determines the energy supply of a particular type of pasture over a 12-month period. It has a broad spectrum of native and improved pastures to accommodate for most environments.

Australia’s greenhouse gas inventory authorities use the same data inputs to calculate carbon emissions from grazing livestock.

Predictor Plus also gives producers the opportunity to incorporate their own data by using dung sampling, where results can be read and implemented in a matter of hours.

“Dung samples are the best way to get accuracy, if you take a grab sample or use satellite mapping you are not sure if the animals are actually going to eat it,” Mr Best said.

“It is also a representative of microbial digestion, so we can figure out what was digested. If you incorporate the dung sampling component, you then have more data, and you can compare with Australia’s greenhouse gas defaults or other pasture systems.”

The other side of Predictor Plus is the breed table, which groups together 25 different phenotypes – including three different Brahman, Hereford and Angus phenotypes – which the organisation says covers the majority of rangeland production.

The program then reconciles selected pasture and breed information to provide a range of outputs to a producer, including carbon cost.

Mr Best said Predictor Plus was “breed agnostic” and “grazing practice agnostic” because it was more about giving the producer information to make decisions.

“No matter what grazing practice you use or what breed of cattle you have, you will still need to understand your energy supply to calculate your cash yield and carbon emissions,” he said.

“Whatever graze you would like to do, the program can handle it.”

How does it relate to carbon?

Mr Best said understanding the emissions of a grazing operation required similar inputs to calculating cash yield.

“What the tool has inside of it now, is the official carbon calculation for the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory,” he said.

“Basically, you need to be across the data inputs used in this program to be credible in carbon reduction. Predictor Plus takes all the subjectivity out of carbon.

“You can take the information it gives and run a series a scenarios to see if you can reduce emissions – whether that be changing weaning times, changing breeder size or any other decision. It is extremely dexterous and can accommodate all these scenarios.”

The company is hoping to develop Predictor Plus further, with many new features nearing their deployment.

“Mort & Co’s involvement is about assisting producers in making more accurate decisions around livestock management and carbon emissions.” Mr Best said.

“Helping producers validate their emissions means the company is taking greater steps in limiting the emissions it inherits through purchased cattle. Mort & Co is always looking for ways to improve and that ambition goes beyond its operations and into its supply chain.”





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