Unlocking Value in Biodiversity, Carbon and how Cattle Contribute
Landholders hold many of the trump cards in the unfolding game of reducing carbon emissions and rewarding ecological performance, but external pressures are likely to increase, and all parts of the agricultural supply chain have a critical role to play in setting the social and scientific rules for how that game is played.
This was the central message from the Gyranda Open Day at Theodore on Thursday, September 17. In what was something of a deviation on the usual themes of beef production and the technology employed to do it, this year’s speakers – siblings Peter, Claire and Tom Mahony – discussed all things carbon and natural capital with ABC Capricornia’s Megan Hughes.
“Landholders have plenty of opportunities in a world going headfirst towards trying to reduce the carbon footprint,” says Gyranda’s principal Peter Mahony. As chair of AgForce’s Natural Resource Committee until earlier this year, Peter has been heavily involved in the carbon discussion and developing the AgCarE program.
“However, there are also plenty of threats, and chief amongst those is not having access to reliable, independent information on just what ecological assets I have on my farm, and what the true market value of that is.”
Claire Mahony is Head of New Ventures and Innovation at one of Australia’s largest, vertically integrated beef businesses. From her observations, there are limited market signals to adequately reward ‘carbon neutral’ beef across global markets and the cost of directly reducing methane through feed additives remains unviable for widespread adoption.
“So, for producers, any talk of carbon and natural capital has to align with normal production drivers.”
“Producers can generate carbon credits, for example, though the Beef Herd Methodology. In many respects it is a win-win because the basic premiss behind that methodology is the same premiss that drives profitability in most beef businesses: turn cattle off sooner and heavier.”
Stakeholder expectations also have a role to play. Something that Tom Mahony – Senior Director – Supply Chain for McDonald’s Australia knows only too well.
“At McDonald’s, where our food comes from and how it is produced matters to our customers, communities and the environment”, says Tom. “As one of the biggest buyers of Australian beef, we know we have an important role to play in working with the industry to achieve emissions reductions”
“Our observation is that customers will always want great quality and great value. At McDonald’s we have already, and will continue, to work with our supplier partners and invest in the supply chain to accelerate innovations in this space.”
The ACCC have recently become quite vocal in calling out those companies that are “greenwashing” their environmental credentials, so the reality is that claims will have to be backed up by data.
The panel suggested that it will likely become an expectation from customers alongside food safety and affordability, rather than an opportunity to earn a premium price.
“Although price premiums may be challenging to achieve, creating value to incentivise decarbonisation activities will be critical for uptake”, says Claire.
“Insetting and collaboration between actors in the value chain may be part of the puzzle to incentivise producers for those on-ground decarbonisation activities that only producers can undertake.”
“Pressure is mounting on the large food and fibre companies to account for their emissions and their ecological footprint, so supply chains are increasingly looking for both information and solutions from their suppliers. Importantly, I think most companies recognise the value in this and I think we will see more rewards from initiatives, such as insetting of carbon, flowing back to those who produce the food we eat,” suggests Tom Mahony.
What the group did agree on was that government policy towards decarbonisation in agriculture and evolving markets for biodiversity and natural capital was far from set in stone, and that every sector of agriculture has an important role to play in driving that narrative.
“My experience is that government is genuinely looking to work with agriculture, especially our R&D sectors, to help us devise solutions. Corporates have an important role to play in articulating our needs to government with data to back up the narrative,” says Claire.
Peter sees a small, but growing number of farmers taking advantage of the opportunity to run their farms for both production, and ecological improvement, and being well rewarded for it. “Carbon, biodiversity and the emerging natural capital market is not for everyone, and many of us just don’t have the headspace to take it all in right now. Over time, however, I think the market signals will be clearer and the true “champions” of industry better defined so that the pathway to success is much clearer.”
GYRANDA OPEN DAY 2022
Exploring the Functional Female
Over 130 people joined Peter and Nikki Mahony of Gyranda and Shaun McGuigan of Cree Santa Gertrudis studs at the Gyranda Open Day to discuss both identifying high performance cows and selecting replacement heifers.
Grame Hopf led discussions on the day examining the structure required for easy calving and to support a lifetime of milk production . He emphasised the desirability of some slope to the rump, the danger of fat being laid down in the udder and the sheer volume of blood required to produce milk. It is always special when Grame is able to get back to Gyranda and share his knowledge with us so generously.
Attendees from Baralaba, Mundubbera, Gympie, Gayndah and Theodore, as well as students from St. Ursula’s College, Yeppoon and Marist College Ashgrove (MCA), Brisbane joined in what became a lively discussion at times. A big thank you to the lads from MCA for serving up delicious coffees all day; to Meryl, our renowned Gyranda cook for huge range of cakes, slices and biscuits and to Vicki Meischke from AGnVET Theodore for manning the BBQ and rolling our 140 steaks and sausages to feed the crowd.
Gyranda Open Day 2020
BATTLE OF THE BREEDS!
The 2020 Open Day held on Thursday AUGUST 13 was hailed as “hands down, the best one yet”. A small triumph in COVID times!
Set as public forum involving Dr. David Johnston and stud breeders – Steve Farmer (Droughtmaster) , Ashley Kirk (Brahman), Sam Becker (Herefords), Alan Goodland (Charolais) to examine how different breeds are utilising the research and data to target traits and lift the productivity of the beef industry. The full Gyranda sale team, as well as a selection of bulls from the other studs were on display.
So…… What was revealed at the ‘Battle of the Breeds’?
We learnt that the different breeds are evolving to be much more universal animals – and as such we share many common challenges. Charolais have more fat, Brahmans have really pushed fertility and Sam Becker’s Herefords are better adapted to the heat and parasites of northern Australia. All of this achieved without sacrificing the traditional strengths of those breeds.
Dr. David Johnston led a lively discussion amongst commercial cattlemen and a long list of stud producers that tackled some of the tough questions – relevant to all breeds in northern Australia. How do we manage the nutritional requirements of maiden heifers? How do we select bulls to minimise calving problems as we (all breeds) continue to chase growth? How do we increase the volume and quality of carcase data going into EBVs to make it a more reliable tool? If we really push fertility can we have our cake and eat it too. That is, can we achieve increasing fertility alongside better growth and carcase characteristics?
It was refreshing to have an open discussion whereby all participants were happy to open up their businesses to scrutiny and commercial cattlemen, and those with technical knowledge combined to deliver some really interesting outcomes.
Gyranda Open Day 2017
A world of opportunity!
Dr. David Swain of CQUniversity Australia and with our own Jodie Chevelier from Purpan University, France – on cutting edge research making a difference locally and around the world.
Paul Williams and Tim Emery will be helping you select the right bull. As well as conversations about Solar irrigation.
Gyranda Open Day 2016
What makes the perfect cow?
Thursday August 11th was a day of recipes for honing fertility and a bag of bones at Gyranda last Thursday as the nation’s leading Beef Geneticist Dr. David Johnston and arguably our most entertaining cow judge Grame Hopf swapped ideas for what makes the perfect cow.
A crowd of over 70 descended on the picturesque sales complex near Theodore from as far away as Bundaberg, Brisbane, Blackall and Goondiwindi. They came to learn why structure is so important in breeding females. Why udder development, hip slope and not getting too fat is critical to ensuring your cows can calve out easily and raise a healthy calf…every year.
Dr. Johnston painted a stark picture of the importance of maintaining data to determine fertility of females. Fertility is the one trait that cannot, he insists, be picked by eye. The most recent trial work reiterates that in Santa Gertrudis the Days to Calving EBV is closely correlated to all fertility traits. It is a valuable tool that has the potential of lifting preg. testing rates by 3-5%. A tool that is available on those bulls you buy now, giving you a clear picture of the future fertility of their daughters. Download David Johnston’s presentation here.