|Carbon Positive Farming
with Peter Burton
Functional Fertiliser Ltd
Every day there are new reports proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the world is warming at a faster rate than ever before and, although reversible, we are getting close to the point of no return.
The only way we’re told that the warming process can be reversed is to sequester carbon by planting more and more trees.
One issue is that rapidly growing trees, such as pinus radiata, have an establishment phase of six years. Until then growth is relatively slow, so there will be little if any immediate impact on atmospheric CO2 levels.
Native bush is much slower so can largely be ignored if we are to head off the day of armageddon when temperatures soar at an ever-increasing rate with coastal flooding, forest fires, and droughts dominating the headlines.
If this is in fact the case, the world as we currently know it is beyond repair and the sanest option is to spend and party like there is genuinely no tomorrow.
However, there might just be a solution, which some folk have identified and are working to capitalise on.
It’s sheep! (sidehead)
It’s a humble grazing ruminant and, when fed on rapidly growing permanent pastures, the speed at which carbon can be sequestered is rapid.
Dung is evenly distributed and quickly reabsorbed into the ground. Methane and nitrous oxide emissions, as I understand, are markedly less than those of the much larger dairy cows.
The milk is more readily digested by humans and being more nutrient dense, less volume is required to satisfy needs.
There is already a fledgling milking industry, which could be rapidly expanded without the requirement for the super-sized infrastructure of the dairy industry.
Existing dairy properties could be readily converted to sheep milking making large and expensive effluent storage and disposal systems largely redundant.
Sheep do not produce the mud that their heavier footed relation, the dairy cow, creates therefore largely eliminating the heavy machinery used for the re-establishment of pasture.
Small bales of hay are more easily managed than big heavy rounds and squares, reducing the requirement for farmers to own tractors of more than 65hp.
Capital machinery and operating costs could be slashed and although increased labour would be required for the making of hay, there would be a useful income available for university students willing and able to bend their backs and stretch their muscles.
Industry excitement (sidehead)
Coarse wool, after years of being a cost, is now increasing in price and wool unsuitable for clothing could be used in the manufacture of once-in-a-lifetime carpets with remnants turned into highly effective home insulation.
The financial return from rapidly fattening lambs remains higher than any other livestock farming enterprise, and with projected returns of $9.00/kg this season there is genuine excitement building within the industry.
Lamb meat is prized for its flavour and tenderness and the size of the cuts are far better suited to the smaller portions required by today’s families.
On farm, lambs are more easily handled by folk that find 500kg cows and 50kg calves something of a battle.
Dairy farmers were for many years the poor cousin of the sheep farmer, with dairy units confined to small areas of highly fertile flat land serviced by numerous dairy factories making specialist products.
An economic family unit in the 1970s was 60 cows and all members pitched in during calving and haymaking.
Just maybe there are good reasons to once again consider carefully the merits of intensive sheep farming on our best land, with just a smattering of family operated dairy enterprises.
Due to the cyclical nature of industry and the demand for a reduction in environmental pressure that time might be closer than many have imagined.
For more information contact Peter on: 0800 843 809.