Australian feedlotters are well placed to lead the world in reducing carbon emissions from agricultural industries because they operate in highly precise, efficient and controlled environments.
There are a range of strategies being implemented by the grain-fed cattle sector - or are in the pipeline - to achieve this.
This will help to meet the wider red meat and livestock industry's target to be carbon neutral by 2030 (CN30).
There are exciting new innovations and technologies in animal feed additives that may reduce cattle methane emissions, optimise dietary intake and ensure best-practice herd management.
Latest resources to help lot feeders better understand and use carbon reduction tactics are now housed on ALFA's centralised new online Carbon Neutrality Resource Hub.
These include fact sheets, webinars and articles covering topics such as understanding emissions, steps to reducing emissions and how to account for greenhouse gases (GHG).
The website also has a link to the comprehensive Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) technical manual "Moving towards carbon neutrality - Opportunities for the Australian feedlot industry".
Feed additives appear promising for use in feedlots and have potential to be easily incorporated into grain-fed cattle diets.
This will immediately benefit the Australian red meat and livestock industry by reducing methane emissions.
Existing feedlot rations typically include up to 7 per cent fats and oils on a dry matter basis, and research has found methane emissions can fall by 4.9 per cent for every 1pc rise in oil or fats.
But dry matter intake can be suppressed in rations above 10pc fat content.
The naturally-occurring antibiotic Monensin Monensin is widely used as a rumen modifier for preventing rumen acidosis in cattle fed high concentrate diets.
It can lower methane production by reducing dry matter intake by 5-6pc, and increase feed conversion efficiency. This reduces lifetime methane produced per kilogram of beef.
There are several prospective feed additives showing promise, including the microalgae Asparagopsis A and a synthetic methane inhibitor.
Dietary nitrate is a recognised methane mitigation compound, and grazing cattle that receive it can generate carbon credits. But there is some caution due to toxicity.
Defaunation is another tactic that has been successfully trialed by changing the composition of microorganisms in the rumen. But no supplements are commercially available yet.
Finishing cattle on grain-based rations increases daily weight gain and reduces feed conversion ratio and methane emissions. This means fewer lifetime emissions.
Hormonal growth promotants can help to lift feed conversion efficiency and growth rates and lower the time the animal is on feed and age at slaughter.
There is potential to create estimated breeding values (EBVs) to help fast-track genetic selection for methane emissions, which have traits that are heritable and repeatable.
Manure management is also important, as this contributes about 1-2pc to the carbon footprint of finished feedlot cattle. More research is needed in this space.
Tips and tools
MLA has produced the "Moving towards carbon neutrality - Opportunities for the Australian feedlot industry - Technical manual" that outlines pathways to carbon neutrality.
It helps feedlot operators generate a "carbon account", review emission reduction strategies and delves into the economics of achieving carbon neutrality.
Many aspects of the feedlot operation make emission mitigation readily achievable, and they have an important role in working towards the industry's CN30 goal.
Prioritising carbon accounting now and investing in GHG mitigation strategies ensures market access for Australian grain-fed beef in the future, and uses technologies that drive economic, environmental and social benefits.