Large-scale cattle station operator Paraway Pastoral Company has spearheaded an innovative plan to allow smaller graziers a foothold in the carbon market.
Paraway has committed 50,000 head from herds at its Rocklands and Tanbar properties in western Queensland to a herd aggregation project with carbon project developer Natural Carbon and marketers Corporate Carbon.
Beef operations around the country running herds of at least 1000 head can now join the project and implement emissions abatement practices in pasture-fed cattle to earn carbon credits.
Carbon yields typically sit between .2 and .6 Australian Carbon Credit Units per head. With ACCUs currently trading at $14 to $17, managing for reduced emissions currently returns around $7.50 a head.
However, administrative and compliance fees to come on board amount to tens of thousands and that has limited beef operations involved to large companies able to commit at least 50,000 head.
The herd aggregation project allows smaller operations to pool those set-up costs with Paraway. It effectively cuts the cost of participation for a smaller producer by as much as 80 per cent.
Cattle management practices aimed at reducing emissions include lowering the average age of animals turned off via genetics, planting improved pastures and boosting water and fencing infrastructure.
Natural Carbon's general manager Julien Gastaldi points out the sort of management that reduces emissions per kilogram of live weight produced also typically improves productivity on a beef property.
The herd aggregation project is designed to break down the cost barriers to carbon market entry for smaller operations in order to get them started on a carbon journey, he said.
"The easiest point of entry is to link carbon crediting to animal emissions - not emitting as much as you currently are is always the first step," he said.
"There is obviously a lot more carbon in planting trees and soil sequestration but these are higher impact methodologies.
"The aim is to make smaller producers familiar with carbon markets and from there they may hopefully follow the likes of Paraway and CPC, who have travelled significantly down the path of utilising the carbon market as an additional income stream.
"Making the carbon market accessible to players of all sizes is essential in reducing emissions and ensuring a prosperous future for agriculture."
The project has put its hand up for the 2020 investment round of the Queensland Government's new $500 million Land Restoration Fund, which opened this week.
That would mean that while the project is open to graziers nationwide, Queensland producers would be able to sell carbon credits to the Fund at a premium.
Paul McDougall, sustainability manager at Paraway Pastoral, described the project as a win-win situation.
"We saw this as a great opportunity to enable smaller producers to be credited for reducing the emissions intensity of their herds, while we benefit from improved productivity and generate carbon credits," he said.
Gary Wyatt, director at Corporate Carbon commended Paraway's 'far-sighted leadership' as creating a pathway for producers with small herds to realise the benefits of carbon farming.
Operators with cattle herds of at least 1000 head that would like to participate in the herd aggregation project can click here to register their interest.
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