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Toowoomba, Australia

Peters G.M.,University of New South Wales | Peters G.M.,Chalmers University of Technology | Wiedemann S.G.,FSA Consulting | Rowley H.V.,University of New South Wales | Tucker R.W.,Australian Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries
International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment | Year: 2010

Background and theory Life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle inventory (LCI) practice needs to engage with the debate on water use in agriculture and industry. In the case of the red meat sector, some of the methodologies proposed or in use cannot easily inform the debate because either the results are not denominated in units that are meaningful to the public or the results do not reflect environmental outcomes. This study aims to solve these problems by classifying water use LCI data in the Australian red meat sector in a manner consistent with contemporary definitions of sustainability. We intend to quantify water that is removed from the course it would take in the absence of production or degraded in quality by the production system. Materials and methods The water used by three red meat supply systems in southern Australia was estimated using hybrid LCA. Detailed process data incorporating actual growth rates and productivity achieved in two calendar years were complemented by an input-output analysis of goods and services purchased by the properties. Detailed hydrological modelling using a standard agricultural software package was carried out using actual weather data. Results The model results demonstrated that the major hydrological flows in the system are rainfall and evapotranspiration. Transferred water flows and funds represent small components of the total water inputs to the agricultural enterprise, and the proportion of water degraded is also small relative to the water returned pure to the atmosphere. The results of this study indicate that water used to produce red meat in southern Australia is 18-540 L/kg HSCW, depending on the system, reference year and whether we focus on source or discharge characteristics. Interpretation Two key factors cause the considerable differences between the water use data presented by different authors: the treatment of rain and the feed production process. Including rain and evapotranspiration in LCI data used in simple environmental discussions is the main cause of disagreement between authors and is questionable from an environmental impact perspective because in the case of some native pastoral systems, these flows may not have changed substantially since the arrival of Europeans. Regarding the second factor, most of the grain and fodder crops used in the three red meat supply chains we studied in Australia are produced by dryland cropping. In other locations where surface water supplies are more readily available, such as the USA, irrigation of cattle fodder is more common. So whereas the treatment of rain is a methodological issue relevant to all studies relating water use to the production of red meat, the availability of irrigation water can be characterised as a fundamental difference between the infrastructure of red meat production systems in different locations. Conclusions Our results are consistent with other published work when the methodological diversity of their work and the approaches we have used are taken into account.We show that for media claims that tens or hundreds of thousands of litres of water are used in the production of red meat to be true, analysts have to ignore the environmental consequences of water use. Such results may nevertheless be interesting if the purpose of their calculations is to focus on calorific or financial gain rather than environmental optimisation. Recommendations and perspectives Our approach can be applied to other agricultural systems. We would not suggest that our results can be used as industry averages. In particular, we have not examined primary data for northern Australian beef production systems, where the majority of Australia's export beef is produced. © 2010 Springer-Verlag.

Wiedemann S.G.,FSA Consulting | Yan M.-J.,FSA Consulting | Henry B.K.,Queensland University of Technology | Murphy C.M.,FSA Consulting
Journal of Cleaner Production | Year: 2016

Australia is the largest supplier of fine apparel wool in the world, produced from diverse sheep production systems. To date, broad scale analyses of the environmental credentials of Australian wool have not used detailed farm-scale data, resulting in a knowledge gap regarding the performance of this product. This study is the first multiple impact life cycle assessment (LCA) investigation of three wool types, produced in three geographically defined regions of Australia: the high rainfall zone located in New South Wales (NSW HRZ) producing super-fine Merino wool, the Western Australian wheat-sheep zone (WA WSZ) producing fine Merino wool, and the southern pastoral zone (SA SPZ) of central South Australia, producing medium Merino wool. Inventory data were collected from both case study farms and regional datasets. Life cycle inventory and impact assessment methods were applied to determine resource use (energy and water use, and land occupation) and GHG emissions, including emissions and removal associated with land use (LU) and direct land use change (dLUC). Land occupation was divided into use of arable and non-arable land resources. A comparison of biophysical allocation and system expansion methods for handling co-production of greasy wool and live weight (for meat) was included. Based on the regional analysis results, GHG emissions (excluding LU and dLUC) were 20.1 ± 3.1 (WA WSZ, mean ± 2 S.D) to 21.3 ± 3.4 kg CO2-e/kg wool in the NSW HRZ, with no significant difference between regions or wool type. Accounting for LU and dLUC emissions and removals resulted in either very modest increases in emissions (0.3%) or reduced net emissions by 0-11% depending on pasture management and revegetation activities, though a higher degree of uncertainty was observed in these results. Fossil fuel energy demand ranged from 12.5 ± 4.1 in the SA SPZ to 22.5 ± 6.2 MJ/kg wool (WA WSZ) in response to differences in grazing intensity. Fresh water consumption ranged from 204.3 ± 59.1 in the NSW HRZ to 393.7 ± 123.8 L/kg wool in the WA WSZ, with differences primarily relating to climate. Stress-weighted water use ranged from 11.0 ± 3.0 (SA SPZ) to 74.6 ± 119.5 L H2O-e/kg wool (NSW HRZ) and followed an opposite trend to water consumption in response to the different levels of water stress across the regions. Non-arable grazing land was found to range from 55% to almost 100% of total land occupation. Different methods for handling co-production of greasy wool and live weight changed estimated total GHG emissions by a factor of three, highlighting the sensitivity to this methodological choice and the significance of meat production in the wool supply chain. The results presented improve the understanding of environmental impacts and resource use in these wool production regions as a basis for more detailed full supply chain analysis. © 2016 The Authors.

Wiedemann S.G.,FSA Consulting | Henry B.K.,Queensland University of Technology | McGahan E.J.,FSA Consulting | Grant T.,Life Cycle Strategies | And 2 more authors.
Agricultural Systems | Year: 2015

Over the past three decades major changes have occurred in Australia's beef industry, affecting productivity and potentially the amount of resources used and environmental impacts from production. Using a life cycle assessment (LCA) approach with a 'cradle-to-farm gate' boundary the changes in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission intensity and key resource use efficiency factors (water use, fossil fuel energy demand and land occupation) are reported for the 30 years from 1981 to 2010, for the Australian beef industry. The analysis showed that over the three decades since 1981 there has been a decrease in GHG emission intensity (excluding land use change emissions) of 14% from 15.3 to 13.1 kg CO2-e/kg liveweight (LW). The improvement was largely due to efficiency gains through heavier slaughter weights, increases in growth rates in grass-fed cattle, improved survival rates and greater numbers of cattle being finished on grain. However, the increase in supplement and grain use on farms, and the increase in feedlot finishing, resulted in a twofold increase in fossil fuel energy demand for beef production over the same time. Fresh water consumption for beef production dropped to almost a third from 1465 L/kg LW in 1981 to 515 L/kg LW in 2010. Three contributing factors for this dramatic reduction in water use were: (i)an increase in the competitive demand for irrigation water, resulting in a transfer away from pasture for cattle to higher value industries such as horticulture, (ii) an initiative to cap free flowing artesian bores in the rangelands, and (iii) an overall decline in water available for agriculture compared to industrial and domestic uses. While there was higher uncertainty relating to estimates of land occupation and emissions from land use (LU) and direct land use change (dLUC), an inventory of land occupation indicated a decline in non-arable land occupation of about 19%, but a sevenfold increase in land occupation for feed production, albeit from a low base in 1981. GHG emissions associated with LU and dLUC for grazing were estimated to have declined by around 42% since 1981, due largely to legislated restrictions on broad-scale deforestation which were introduced progressively between 1996 and 2006. This paper discusses the prospects and challenges for further gains in resource use efficiency and reductions in greenhouse gas intensity for Australian beef production. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Wiedemann S.,FSA Consulting | McGahan E.,FSA Consulting | Murphy C.,FSA Consulting | Yan M.-J.,FSA Consulting | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Cleaner Production | Year: 2015

Australia is one of the two largest exporting nations for beef and lamb in the world and the USA is a major export market for both products. To inform the Australian red meat industry regarding the environmental performance of exported food products, this study conducted the first multi-impact analysis of Australian red meat export supply chains including all stages through to warehousing in the USA. A large, integrated dataset based on case study farms and regional survey was used to model beef and lamb from major representative production regions in eastern Australia. Per kilogram of retail-ready red meat, fresh water consumption ranged from 441.7 to 597.6 L across the production systems, stress-weighted water use from 108.5 to 169.4 L H2O-e, fossil energy from 28.1 to 46.6 MJ, crop land occupation from 2.5 to 29.9 m2 and human edible protein conversion efficiency ranged from 7.9 to 0.3, with major differences observed between grass finished and grain finished production. GHG emissions excluding land use and direct land use change ranged from 16.1 to 27.2 kg CO2-e per kilogram, and removals and emissions from land use and direct land use change ranged from -2.4 to 8.7 kg CO2-e per kilogram of retail retail ready meat. Process based life cycle assessment shows that environmental impacts and resource use were highest in the farm and feedlot phase. Transportation contributed ≤5% of greenhouse gas emissions, water and land, confirming that food miles is not a suitable indicator of environmental impacts for red meat transported by ocean shipping. The contribution of international transportation to total energy demand was higher, ranging from 14 to 23%. These beef and lamb supply chains were found to rely on small volumes of water from stressed water catchments, and occupied only small amounts of crop land suited to other food production systems. Production of high quality protein foods for human consumption used only small amounts of protein from human edible grain. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.

Cottle D.J.,University of New England of Australia | Nolan J.V.,University of New England of Australia | Wiedemann S.G.,FSA Consulting
Animal Production Science | Year: 2011

In Australia, agriculture is responsible for ∼17% of total greenhouse gas emissions with ruminants being the largest single source. However, agriculture is likely to be shielded from the full impact of any future price on carbon. In this review, strategies for reducing ruminant methane output are considered in relation to rumen ecology and biochemistry, animal breeding and management options at an animal, farm, or national level. Nutritional management strategies have the greatest short-term impact. Methanogenic microorganisms remove H2 produced during fermentation of organic matter in the rumen and hind gut. Cost-effective ways to change the microbial ecology to reduce H2 production, to re-partition H2 into products other than methane, or to promote methanotrophic microbes with the ability to oxidise methane still need to be found. Methods of inhibiting methanogens include: use of antibiotics; promoting viruses/bacteriophages; use of feed additives such as fats and oils, or nitrate salts, or dicarboxylic acids; defaunation; and vaccination against methanogens. Methods of enhancing alternative H2 using microbial species include: inoculating with acetogenic species; feeding highly digestible feed components favouring 'propionate fermentations'; and modifying rumen conditions. Conditions that sustain acetogen populations in kangaroos and termites, for example, are poorly understood but might be extended to ruminants. Mitigation strategies are not in common use in extensive grazing systems but dietary management or use of growth promotants can reduce methane output per unit of product. New, natural compounds that reduce rumen methane output may yet be found. Smaller but more permanent benefits are possible using genetic approaches. The indirect selection criterion, residual feed intake, when measured on ad libitum grain diets, has limited relevance for grazing cattle. There are few published estimates of genetic parameters for feed intake and methane production. Methane-related single nucleotide polymorphisms have yet to be used commercially. As a breeding objective, the use of methane/kg product rather than methane/head is recommended. Indirect selection via feed intake may be more cost-effective than via direct measurement of methane emissions. Life cycle analyses indicate that intensification is likely to reduce total greenhouse gas output but emissions and sequestration from vegetation and soil need to be addressed. Bio-economic modelling suggests most mitigation options are currently not cost-effective. © CSIRO 2011.

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