AWN client and Tasmanian superfine wool grower, Simon Cameron, is pioneering a trial which may result in the world’s first carbon neutral fleece.
For the wool grower, there are two drivers. Firstly, acknowledgement of the need for all businesses to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and, secondly, the need to respond to growing calls from consumers to “decarbonise” wool production.
Fifty 18-month-old Kingston Merino ewes were selected at random for the trial with half to be given a supplement which CSIRO research suggests makes methane emissions undetectable, offering the potential for sheep producers to significantly reduce their carbon footprint. The ewes will be fed asparagopsis seaweed supplement mixed with barley for 300 days while the remaining sheep in the trial will be fed straight barley.
Simon Cameron – Kingston
The trial is testing the impact on the animals and the wool they grow. All being well, the sheep will be shorn in June and each fleece will be tested to ascertain any differences with the control mob.
About 50 per cent of GHG emissions related to the life cycle of a woollen garment are generated on-farm so a successful trial would hold great hopes for the future.
Simon already collaborates with M.J. Bale, the Australian menswear retailer, supplying wool from his property, Kingston, for the single-origin suit range, the ‘Kingston Collection’. The company initiated and is supporting the project as part of its own carbon neutral program.
“About 50 per cent of GHG emissions related to the life cycle of a woollen garment are generated on-farm so a successful trial would hold great hopes for the future.’’
A fantastic idea but the sceptics will ask is it practical and what impact will it have on the sheep and its fleece. Simon pulls no punches admitting he doesn’t know if the sheep will continue to maintain wool quality and weight.
“The trial sheep will be generating more energy and we don’t know how this will be used. We are watching for negative impacts on the animal and I am pleased to say there have been none so far. My primary concern is for the welfare of the animals,’’ he said.
Asparagopsis seaweed supplement
“It is very early days in the life of asparagopsis being grown commercially and used this way. CSIRO has demonstrated asparagopsis can virtually eliminate methane. The next steps are commercial production of asparagopsis, finding effective ways to deliver it to livestock. A trial will soon be commenced in the dairy industry, an easier place to start due to the way dairy cows are fed. Also cost and availability are not yet established. My project is the first for any livestock. I get a bucket of yucky looking brown goop directly from the asparagopsis producer SeaForest’s lab/farm each month and I guess as trials go, only time will tell.’’ Simon has been an AWN client for about 10 years, joining the company at the same time as Launceston Regional Manager Brett Cox.
“We considered Brett the best person in Tasmania as far as our wool and sheep were a concern. We may well have been his first full clip customer,’’ Simon said.
AWN is considered an innovative company in its own right and, it would seem, Simon also fits this description with his involvement in the carbon neutral wool trial.
(Images courtesy of M.J. Bale)