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

Energy

The Issues

Livestock production requires large amounts of energy use.

The Facts

While some energy is used on-farm and in feedlots to produce cattle and sheep, the majority of energy used for the beef and lamb industry is through processing.

On farm & Feedlots

  • Energy consumption on cattle and sheep farms mainly relates to power for the homestead and office, power used to pump water and the use of fuel for running machinery and vehicles such as tractors and motorbikes, and on more remote stations, helicopters.
  • For feedlots, processing grain and other ration ingredients accounts for up to 70% of total energy consumption (depending on the processing option used).  Steam flaking (the most energy intensive option) is used by large feedlots to make grain more digestible to cattle with the end product closely resembling the muesli that we eat for breakfast.  The boilers that produce the steam are powered by LPG, natural gas, butane or coal.
  • Most of the energy used across the red meat and livestock chain is in the form of electricity derived from the local grid. However, renewable energy, such as solar or wind are increasingly being used as is recycling, reusing and more efficient energy practices.

In Processing

  • Beef and lamb processing requires significant use of energy in the form of electricity and gas. Energy is a major input and expense for the processing industry, as well as a source of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The major energy consuming activities at processing plants are refrigeration and the production of steam and hot water. Less significant amounts of energy are used for processes such as lighting, ventilation, motors and pumps.
  • There is a large variation of energy usage across beef and lamb processing sites due to different ages and sizes of processing plants, variations in the refrigerated product mix or the installation of value added meat processing facilities.

The Research

On Farm & Feedlots

  • Australia’s cattle and sheep farmers have used windmills to harness wind energy for over a hundred years, and today windmills continue to be an important source of renewable and cost efficient energy for farmers.
  • Some farmers are also contributing to the generation of renewable energy for Australia through leasing areas of their properties to wind farms.
  • A growing number of cattle and sheep farmers are investing in solar panels as a more efficient power source to pump water, power the homestead or office, process grain or sell back to the grid as a supplementary form of income. Powered by energy from the sun, solar panels provide a reliable, renewable energy source that is good for the environment. The wide open spaces and abundant sunshine in rural areas make farms ideal locations for solar technology.
  • In addition to these options, feedlots are also implementing energy saving technologies, extracting energy from manure and effluent for reuse along with recycling energy where possible.

In processing

  • Energy is a very expensive production input.  The industry is investing in alternative fuels and options to reduce energy consumption. For instance, the industry has a major focus on reducing electricity usage including;
    • Implementation of new energy smart technologies
    • Installation of ceiling fans and wall liners in freezer rooms
    • Recycling of heat from on-site electricity generation for heating, using cogeneration
    • Implementing alternative energy sources such as solar to generate electricity
  • Recovering energy from waste derived from meat processing is increasingly reducing the industry’s dependence on fossil fuels and cutting its greenhouse gas emissions from waste treatment systems – research project include;
  • In addition to converting waste into energy, a major focus has also been on converting waste materials into other resources including;
    • Offal, blood and wastes into bioactives used for pharmaceutical manufacture and nutraceuticals
    • Blood into biodegradable plastics
    • Tallow (fats) into a feedstock for biodiesel
  • The beef and lamb processing sector conducts environmental performance reviews every three to five years, to track the industry’s impact on a range of environmental areas, including energy use.
  • The reviews track the industry’s improvement over time and have established a baseline for continuous environmental improvement for the industry.