MICHAEL Rosser has reduced his ewe flock size, dramatically increased his lambing rates and ground cover, all while earning money from carbon credits.
In the past six years, Mr Rosser has abated over 690,000 tonnes of carbon, with 15 to 20 per cent of his revenue coming from carbon farming, which can rise to as much as 40pc during drought periods. And he's done it all without planting a single tree.
Mr Rosser practices human-induced regeneration on his property - located 60km north of Wanaaring near the NSW and Queensland border - which allows the previously suppressed native vegetation to re-grow, earning him carbon credits.
"We don't plant - the point of human-induced regeneration is to regenerate the native vegetation through improved livestock management activities," he said.
Mr Rosser runs about 1200 head of dorper sheep on the property, but used to run as many as 9000. He began an accelerated joining program, with a joining every eight months.
"With that extra jointing, we had to keep ewe numbers down to ensure we had enough feed," Mr Rosser said.
"We were reducing flock numbers, but because we did that, we had more available feed and we were producing more lambs.
"We started getting more ground cover. There were less sheep, so they were eating grass rather than native forest. We make more money when they're eating grass rather than trees and scrubs."
Once the carbon credits began rolling in from the native forest regrowth, Mr Rosser was able to expand, buying a farm near Forbes. There he implemented a sheep fertility program, using electronic ear tags to track his most fertile ewes.
By using the data from the tags, he's been able to lift twinning rates by over 40pc and now his operation weans 185pc lambs per ewe per year.
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"Every time we have a pregnancy test, I get the data from all the tags on a thumb drive, pull that up in a spreadsheet and I can tell how many lambs have been conceived in each ewe," Mr Rosser said.
"Every mouthful of grass is really precious out this way. I want to know that in dry times, that mouthful of feed is going into the most fertile ewes."
Due to the high fertility of the ewe flock, he now runs nearly half the number of ewes to produce the same number of lambs.
He's also halved the flock's methane emissions, while allowing suppressed vegetation to regenerate through smaller flocks - again earning credits.
The revenue from carbon farming has allowed Mr Rosser to install pipeline infrastructure and water trap points, along with fencing to reduce grazing pressure on native vegetation across his whole property.
Mr Rosser signed the project deal with GreenCollar, who in turn signed the carbon deal with the Clean Energy Regulator.
"They do all the inspections, monitoring and paperwork with the government - they take a percentage, but it's a fair take for what they do," Mr Rosser said.
"GreenCollar also takes on the risk, so if the carbon isn't there, they're the ones that have to meet that obligation to find it, not me."
GreenCollar manages about 400 carbon projects across the country, allowing the company to diversify the risk if one project fails to provide the required carbon, particularly if it is impacted by a natural disaster.
Mr Rosser said these days, farmers were generally open to different herd and land management styles, but initially his approach was met with scepticism.
"Early on when there was always feed at our place, we were told the rain must stop at our fence but not theirs," Mr Rosser said with a chuckle.
"As time went on, word got around. Once the money started coming in, it was like a switch was flicked and people were much more interested."
Mr Rosser also earns credits by avoiding deforestation on his property. By not clearing the land, he avoids emissions that would have been produced if he had cleared the land.
The native forest is now protected for 100 years and Mr Rosser will receive staggered payments every 15 years.
"The off-farm revenue from carbon credits was a major windfall in the drought," he said.
"We had some really dry years, but we didn't have to put off any of our staff. That set us up to rebound quickly when we've had seasons like the past two."
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The story Half the ewes, same number of lambs, all while earning carbon credits first appeared on Farm Online.