UNE at the forefront of Livestock Methane Research

Published 13 February 2013

A major collaborative experiment at the University of New England is helping to develop tools to accurately measure the amount of methane released from grazing sheep and cattle.

The study brings researchers from NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and Canada to find better ways of estimating animal emissions.

Local team leader, UNE’s Professor Roger Hegarty says measuring emissions from grazing animals is extremely difficult, but increasingly necessary to support emissions inventories and to validate methane mitigation methodologies.

 “With development of systems like the Carbon Farming Initiative that put financial value on carbon sources and sinks, it is becoming important to measure emission levels and show we can change them”. 

Due to the spread of cattle over such a large area, the challenge is toughest for the North Australian beef herd, and so techniques being compared include those suited for northern beef systems. The research is part of the CSIRO funded University of Melbourne led ‘Livestock Methane Research Cluster’ which has run studies in Australia’s tropical northwest and Townsville.   

The current study evaluates systems that sample breath as animals come to feed or water, systems that sample the perimeter of the paddock and tower systems which may be suited for long term deployment monitoring herd emissions.

The work is helping to fill the gap between research discovering new ways of reducing emissions current in the federal “Filling the Research Gap” program, and efforts to demonstrate these on farm in the government’s “Action on the Ground” program.