Measuring sustainability worth the effort, say farmers

Australian farmers are realising that measuring environmental resilience projects can bring tangible benefits, a major agribusiness conference has heard.

Increasingly required to share metrics of sustainability with supply chains and others, it turns out farmers can not only gauge their progress, but also realise unforeseen opportunities.

Managing Director of Macka’s Australian Black Angus Beef, Robert Mackenzie, says he has seen a clear return on investment from sustainability measurement at their pastoral operation in Gloucester, New South Wales, after deciding to broadly sample and monitor their soils.

“We took an image of the soils across the property for all organic carbon, pH, phosphorous and all nutrient values,” Mackenzie told Cosmos.

A man sits of a chair with his hands on his legs. Managing director of macka’s australian black angus beef, robert mackenzie talks about measuring sustainability performance at gloucester nsw.
Managing Director of Macka’s Australian Black Angus Beef, Robert Mackenzie, talks about measuring sustainability performance at his property. Credit: Supplied.

“At the same time, we tested for carbon levels.

“We built a data portfolio for our operation – 1400 soil samples in 2022, 1200 in 2021 – and we asked, ‘how can we enhance the value of our soil?’”

Macka’s manages 7500 head across a group of properties totalling 5362ha, of which 1387ha are dedicated conservation areas.

Mackenzie believes that capturing data enables him to say they are working toward a sustainable operation.

“[One] that is focused on best practices and on creating a better environment for our animals, giving more support for our grasses,” he says.

“We’re not reinventing the wheel, just trying to improve our operation and also meet the ESG requirements and expectations.”

Mackenzie spoke at the evoke AG Down to Earth conference held in Adelaide earlier this year.

Also in Cosmos: Balancing mining and sustainability

Panel convener CommBank General Manager Agribusiness, Natasha Greenwood, told the assembly that investing in sustainability, and measuring progress, was starting to be seen not as a burden but as an opportunity.

“Once you start to measure something, it informs a new level of focus and understanding about the underlying areas to be solved.”

Mackenzie agrees. “It’s not rocket science to know that you can do things better,” he says.  “For instance, we planted trees in strategic locations. Not only does that help shade for the animals and biodiversity, but where we planted the trees it helps filter water going into a dam, and helps with erosion.

“We’ve also found involving our family and staff has helped us make better management decisions. Not only does it benefit our operation it actually helps us work together as a team and to understand how to get the best outcomes.

“So small things make a difference.”

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