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Supporting local farmers on their carbon journey

Stuart and Julie Young have been operating their Wyuna East dairy for over 13 years, during which time they have made considerable inroads increasing efficiencies for a more sustainable operation. 

And a recent Rabobank Carbon Neutral Agriculture Workshop held in Moama has helped demystify the often confusing, and potentially overwhelming, carbon conversation.

 

A practical starting point focussed on the basics

The Youngs completed initial carbon tracking through The Dairy Farm Monitor Project, and have undertaken a comprehensive energy audit across their operation, and remain curious regarding the opportunities, and challenges, of carbon specific to their operation. 

“Really, we want to make sure we’re not being left behind and that we’re up-to-date with the potential impending requirements on farming, and this workshop was excellent for motivating us to start thinking about the future, whilst providing knowledge on what may be to come,” Stuart said. 

Julie said the workshop, which included the completion of a carbon calculation using the Greenhouse Accounting Framework developed by the University of Melbourne and the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre, also revealed some challenges.

“From our point-of-view the amount of methane we expel is our biggest polluter, and regardless of whether we’re doing everything correctly and making a positive impact, there are still very few viable solutions for reducing methane.”

“Targets are being set for 2030, which is not very far away, and we don’t want to get to 2028 and be in for a rude shock – which is why we applaud Rabobank for getting everyone into line and building this awareness.” 

Crawford Taylor, Rabobank Head of Client Sustainability, said the workshops provided an opportunity to lay the foundation for farmers and staff in understanding the pathways towards a low emission, or potentially carbon neutral, farm business. 

“There is plenty of discussion around the agricultural industry’s ability to sell carbon credits to other industries for diversification of farm income, or whether producers should focus on their own carbon emissions. Our clients are curious as to how they fit in,” Crawford said.

Before farmers consider their options, a thorough understanding of their greenhouse gas emissions is key, and strategically imperative for a farm business.” 

 

Empowered to reduce their footprint, and increase profitability

Stuart and Julie, together with their sons Jack and Alec currently milk 550 cows, and increasing their power-use efficiency is one of the most practical levers they’ve been able to pull reducing their emissions. 

“We have a 20 kilowatt solar system on the dairy roof, which was as big as we could go at the time, and have installed variable speed pumps to minimise our use of power,” Stuart explained. 

As a result, their monthly bill has almost halved – from $5,000 to $3,000.

The family is now looking to add a chiller that will halve their power usage chilling milk, and has recently upgraded to an industrial sized plate exchange to chill milk before it goes into the vat – resulting in milk that is instantly the required four degrees celsius and further reducing power usage.

 

A growing enterprise for further sustainability

Currently relying on agistment for winter feed, the Youngs are looking to expand their operation for greater management control.

“The water situation in the Goulburn Valley is variable, and we can’t rely on buying in feed or agistment – if we want a fully transparent and environmentally kind operation we need to be self-sufficient, manage our production systems and feed our animals ourselves,” Julie said. 

“We’re both off mixed farms from around Leongatha but we specifically wanted to pursue dairy as it’s the only sector where you know how much money you’ll make, and are able to draw a monthly income,” Stuart explained.

“And it’s an industry that’s been good to us, we’ve made a lot of friends, built a strong business and now we’re looking to the future to see what further opportunities carbon may present.”