Bob Davie

Bob Davie, co-owner of the property “Bimbadeen”, Phillip Island’s “accidental” carbon farmer, octogenarian and contrarian, acknowledges that he sees things differently to most other people. And he credits that to a number of accidents.

He tells the story of a head injury he suffered as a teenager. It was an accident that saw him unable to study and instead saw him working on a farm, despite having no familial connections with farming. That was accident number one.

Accident number two was the advice he and his wife, Anne, received from the Department of Agriculture to plough in the scrub on the undeveloped farm they later bought, rather than burn it, which unwittingly started them on their journey of carbon farming. So, long before they realised the carbon benefits of ploughing organic matter back into the soil, they were unintentionallyadding to their carbon bank. And then they found that grazing paddocks with large mobs for short time periods worked best for their pastures, without realising that, too, added to the carbon being stored in the soil.

It was only when they decided to make “Bimbadeen” carbon-neutral that they actually measured the amount of carbon that was sequestered and realised that the paddocks were improving in growth and production. In later years it was made possible to earn another income from adding carbon to the soil.

In 2001, under the Landcare’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Project, they, together with a group of 15 other farmers in Bass Coast, actively started carbon farming.  In 2014 “Bimbadeen” was declared carbon-neutral, and in 2017 began to sell carbon offsets to Melbourne businesses.

But how easy is it to measure soil carbon and to be declared carbon-neutral?

Bob suggests a three-step process: 

  1. Conduct an online greenhouse gas audit to measure the quantities of greenhouse gas being produced by the business.
  2. Conduct a cored soil carbon test.
  3. Once a baseline carbon level is established, then emissions can be subtracted from the established baseline, and carbon neutrality can be tested.

The Australian Red Meat Industry has set the ambitious target to be Carbon Neutral by 2030.

The red meat and livestock industry currently contributes 10% of all of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) reports that greenhouse gas emissions from the red meat and livestock industry have fallen by 56.7% since 2005. In addition to emissions, it now takes 65% less water to produce a kilo of beef.

Benefits to the red meat industry are seen as increased productivity and reduced net emissions through adoption of innovative technologies and practices on‑farm, in feedlots and for processing facilities; improved drought resilience through adoption of technologies and practices that boost soil health and improve soil moisture utilisation; and increased value capture from low carbon or carbon neutral red meat products by furthering the industry’s position as the trusted source of the highest quality protein.

Consumers will benefit from knowing that Australian red meat production and consumption is good for the environment and good for them.

MLA is supporting producers and their advisors to understand opportunities to reduce emissions and improve carbon storage through the provision of information, tools and educational products. Some of these can be found on the MLA website: www.mla.com.au/cn30.

MLA is also supporting development of promising technologies and practices such as supplements, forages, genetics, grazing management practices, shade/shelter belt configurations, and soil carbon measurement methods. This support is taking place through co-investment partnerships with research organisations, State and Federal Government departments, technology companies, and red meat businesses.  

Asked why he thinks most producers have not established their own carbon status, beef producer Bob Davie says that the fact that carbon is invisible is an issue, as well as the average price per tonne of carbon in Australia, which is currently in the vicinity of $14.35 for all trades conducted via the Emissions Reduction Fund. That price is the fifth lowest in the world, and compares to US$120 per tonne in Poland, Sweden and Switzerland.

After 70 years of farming, and 20 years of active carbon farming, Bob and Anne Davie are of the view that the time is right now for red meat producers to embrace the concept of carbon farming

“Many red meat producers are already doing the right thing, planting deep-rooted perennials and planting shelter trees, but what they haven’t done is measure that impact on soil carbon. If they did, most would find that they are already carbon-neutral”, Bob says.

Bob Davie from “Bimbadeen” and Doug McNicholl from MLA will address the Gippsland Red Meat Conference which has been postponed to Tuesday October 26th at the Riviera Convention Centre.

The Gippsland Red Meat Conference is brought to you by the Gippsland Agricultural Group, in partnership with the National Recovery & Resilience Agency, Agriculture Victoria, Meat and Livestock Australia and East Gippsland and Wellington Shires, and support from major sponsors Elders, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Maiagrazing, Ruralbank, the Herd Improvement Co-operative and National Australia Bank.

Tickets for the conference are available at https://gippslandredmeat2021.eventbrite.com.au or follow the link on the Gippsland Agricultural Group facebook group page or contact event manager Craig Bush ph 0427 943155 or email redmeat@gippslandag.com.au