Allocation of greenhouse gas production between wool and meat in the life cycle assessment of Australian sheep production

  • David J. Cottle
  • Annette L. Cowie



Australia is the largest supplier of high-quality wool in the world. The environmental burden of sheep production must be shared between wool and meat. We examine different methods to handle these co-products and focus on proportional protein content as a basis for allocation, that is, protein mass allocation (PMA). This is the first comprehensive investigation applying PMA for calculating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for Australian sheep production, evaluating the variation in PMA across a large number of farms and locations over 20 years.

Materials and methods

Inventory data for two superfine wool Merino farms were obtained from farmer records, interviews and site visits in study 1. Livestock GHG emissions were modelled using Australian National GHG Inventory methods. A comparison was made of mass, protein mass and economic allocation and system expansion methods for handling co-production of wool and sheep meat. In study 2, typical crossbred ewe, Merino ewe and Merino wether flocks in each of the 28 locations in eight climate zones were modelled using the GrassGro/GRAZPLAN simulation model and historical climatic data to examine the variation in PMA values for different enterprise types.

Results and discussion

Different methods for handling co-products in study 1 changed allocated GHG emissions more than fourfold, highlighting the sensitivity to method choice. In study 2, enterprise, climate zone and year and their interactions had significant effects on PMA between wool and liveweight (LW) sold. The wool PMA (wool protein as proportion of total protein sold) least square means (LSM) were 0.61 ± 0.003 for wethers, 0.43 ± 0.003 for Merino ewes and 0.27 ± 0.003 for crossbred ewe enterprises. The wool PMA LSM for the main effect of Köppen climate zone varied from 0.39 to 0.46. Two zones (no dry season/warm summer and distinctively dry and hot) had significantly lower wool PMA LSM, of 0.39 and 0.41, respectively, than the four other climate zones.


Effects of superfine wool production on GHG emissions differed between regions in response to differences in climate and productivity. Regarding methods for handling co-production, system expansion showed the greatest contrast between the two studied flocks and highlighted the importance of meat from wool production systems. However, we also propose PMA as a simple, easily applied allocation approach for use when attributional life cycle assessment (LCA) is undertaken.


Allocation Carbon footprint Co-production GHG LCA Sheep 



The authors thank Steven Wiedemann, FSA, for his analyses of study 1 data and the two farm managers who supplied data to him. We also thank Dr. Afshin Ghahramani, CSIRO, for providing data generated from Grazfeed/GrassGro model runs used to calculate the PMA values in study 2 and the emission results reported in Cottle et al. (2016).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Environmental and Rural ScienceUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  2. 2.NSW Department of Primary IndustriesBeef Industry CentreArmidaleAustralia

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