Increasing ewe genetic fecundity improves whole-farm production and reduces greenhouse gas emissions intensities: 2. Economic performance
Ho, CKM and Jackson, T and Harrison, MT and Eckard, RJ, Increasing ewe genetic fecundity improves whole-farm production and reduces greenhouse gas emissions intensities: 2. Economic performance, Animal Production Science, 54, (9) pp. 1248-1253. ISSN 1836-0939 (2014) [Refereed Article]
Ewes with the fecundity Booroola (FecB) gene produce more lambs per ewe on average than ewes without the gene and offers a potential way to decrease greenhouse gas emissions (net and per unit animal product) without reducing lamb production if the lambs can be reared to market weights. Using a case study farm in south-west Victoria, a biophysical modelling study has previously showed that increased ewe fecundity from 1 to 1.5 lambs per ewe increased production by 27% and reduced net farm emissions by 21% for the same long-term stocking rate. In this study, a whole-farm economic analysis was used to investigate the relative merit of the same case study farm, with high-fecundity ewes, compared with a baseline system that represented a typical prime lamb enterprise in the region. An additional system comprising ewes with high fecundity at a lower stocking rate than the case study farm was also examined. The analysis was undertaken to establish which farm systems represented the most economically efficient use of all the resources that are employed over a run of years, and involved estimating the net present value of annual profits earned by the farm in each scenario, taking into account the total value of capital used. The potential revenue from the sale of carbon credits through the Carbon Farming Initiative was also investigated. After accounting for the additional costs involved, increasing ewe fecundity resulted in an increase in annual whole-farm profit compared with the baseline system, but risk, considered as the variability in farm profit, also increased. Decreasing stocking rate for the high-fecundity system reduced annual operating profit and net present value at a 5% discount rate, but had less risk compared with the higher stocking rate system. While both systems that incorporated high-fecundity ewes reduced greenhouse gas emissions, revenue from the sale of carbon credits was small compared with revenue from the sale of lambs, wool and culled ewes. Despite this, and assuming the required increases in fertility and weaning rates could be achieved consistently on-farm, ewes with high fecundity may offer producers the opportunity to increase production and profit as well as decrease greenhouse gas emissions.