Meet Australian cattle & sheep farmers, discover 100 research projects and learn more about what is important to the sustainability of the industry

Emissions in feedlots

  • The grain fed beef sector produces around 5 per cent of Australia's livestock emissions and 0.5 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory.
  • The two major greenhouse gases emitted by the grain fed cattle industry are methane and nitrous oxide.
  • Methane emitted during the animal's digestion process comprises around 62 per cent of feedlot emissions, while methane from manure comprises 2 per cent.
  • Nitrous oxide, emitted from manure and nitrogen fertilisers, comprise around 26 per cent of emissions. The remaining 10 per cent comes from standard business operations and machinery.*

*RJ Davis and PJ Watts, (2006), Environmental Sustainability Assessment of the Australian Feedlot Industry, Meat & Livestock Australia, Sydney.

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) indicates that cattle with high feed efficiency can produce 15 percent less methane per day than animals with low feed efficiency. The industry's research and development program is therefore focused on improving productivity.

Due to the intensive production system of feedlots there is an opportunity to utilise waste product for energy creation.

The sector has a number of research priorities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including:

  • Improving nutrition and production efficiency to improve feed conversion rates. This can be achieved through the use of superior diets, nutritional supplements, genetics, animal health and best management practices.
  • Reusing and recycling carbon, for example using cattle manure as an organic fertiliser or capturing and reusing methane as a renewable energy source.
  • Reducing manure and nitrous oxide emissions from manure and effluent by altering pen cleaning frequency and manure handling practices.
  • Applying other energy efficiencies in relation to feed processing, feed delivery and cattle and commodity transportation.