Another way of looking at the cows and carbon debate + VIDEO

Beef Central, 05/08/2015

ON THE the eve of Brisbane’s annual ‘Ekka’ Royal Show there’s been a call from the ‘engine room’ of the Australian beef industry  for cattle to get more credit for their positive impact on the carbon cycle .

geoff_maynard_mediumCentral Queensland stud cattle breeder and successful Ekka exhibitor Geoff Maynard says until now the debate over cows and carbon has focussed almost exclusively on the animal’s ‘exhaust emissions’ – methane.

“But taking a more holistic view, I’d argue that  cattle are also nature’s carbon-capturers and converters,” Mr Maynard said.

“One hundred percent of their diet is stored carbon – grass – and by running cattle on grasslands that in many cases aren’t suitable  for any other type of agricultural production , they’re grazing ‘carbon’ into food,” he said.

In the process, cattle also prevented millions of tonnes of stored carbon being released into the atmosphere through wildfires.

Mr Maynard is calling on Australian scientists  and researchers to help quantify the total impact of cattle, to better inform the carbon debate.

And to kick it off he conducted a small-scale trial with his own cattle being agisted at the Belmont Research Station near Rockhampton. Under the project, a time-lapse camera was focussed on two adjacent paddocks  for twelve months – one of them grazed, the other left fallow.

“The camera took a snapshot every 20 minutes and gave us a unique insight into a year in the life of the animals and their environment  – both grazed and ungrazed,” Mr Maynard said.

At the end of the trial, the fallow paddock was set alight to simulate the dramatic impact wildfires have across northern pastoral areas each year .

“There’s no doubt cattle play a significant role in minimising  the release of  even more carbon into the atmosphere by converting that grass into meat protein, and manure, which contributes to soil fertility,” he said.

A two-minute video using the time lapse photography sequence and other footage has been produced, which Mr Maynard hopes will spark a lively debate over ‘cows and carbon.’

Click the link below to access the video:

“The beef industry deserves  to get more credit for its positive impact on carbon,  instead of the continual negative emphasis on methane emissions,” Mr Maynard said.


Geoff Maynard is a director of Meat & Livestock Australia.





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  1. deborah newell, 10/08/2015

    The grass fed industry needs someone like Geoff to tell the other story. The hand-it-along carbon issue is one part of the complex grasslands/savannah ecosystem that depends upon grazers to maintain pasture species’ diversity and resilience. Kilo for kilo the most efficient return from these natural systems into a whole suite of human resources (food, fibre, tools, medical/pharmaceutical and fertiliser) is via grazing animals on well managed properties. The same can’t be said for cereal production which robs soil fertility, denies biodiversity and destroys the most valuable soil critters of all, the methanotrophs (which hate too much nitrogen), whose role in life is to ‘eat’ methane. By the way, the total biomass of ruminants has been roughly the same since the days of the mammoths.

  2. Sam Staines, 08/08/2015

    Once again a huge thanks to Geoff Maynard

  3. George King, 06/08/2015

    Great work Geoff, we need to promote more of the environmental benefits of running livestock

  4. douglas Hurst, 06/08/2015

    Well put & practical in explanation , hope the knockers of High Country grazing in Vic take note of this presentation .

  5. Rawdon Briggs, 06/08/2015

    Hi Beef Central,

    An excellent story about a simple Rangeland situation that a lot of people outside of the industry do not understand.

    Regards, Rawdon

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