Author: Bel Tromp
Source: ABC Rural
Date: 19 September, 2012
It’s estimated that livestock including pigs, cows and chickens produce more than three million tonnes of manure each year.
This virtual mountain of manure is a significant contributor to Australia’s carbon footprint, emitting greenhouse gas in the form of methane and to a lesser extent nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.
In all livestock industries manure is considered a valuable fertiliser. In dairies and piggeries manure is typically captured in effluent ponds and applied to pasture, while in poultry and egg farms chook poo lands on the floor of sheds among the litter and is scooped up. In grassfed beef production, manure stays in the paddock.
Scientists believe that if they can change the formulation of manure by adding or altering chemical components, they can reduce greenhouse emissions.
They are also looking at how to achieve maximum improvement in soil health from manure application, thereby raising the level of carbon in the soil and reducing Australia’s overall carbon footprint.
Researchers are also working to maximise existing technology used in intensive livestock farming where manure is captured in a covered effluent pond, and methane emissions are piped out to generate electricity.
Piggery owner Edwina Beveridge is using this technology on her piggery at Young in southern New South Wales, and is generating enough electricity from methane to supply all her farm’s needs and feed surplus into the electricity grid.
The first big challenge for livestock industries is to measure the greenhouse emissions from manure. The University of Wollongong is leading research into this area using infrared technology to measure airborne gas.
The National Agriculture Manure Management Program, was developed by the intensive livestock rural Research and Development Corporations.
These include Meat and Livestock Australia, Australian Egg Corporation, Chicken Meat Council, and Dairy Australia.
The research effort is funded under the Australian Government’s Carbon Farming Futures program, ‘Filling the Research Gap’.