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Abstract

Participants at 20 beef industry forums in New South Wales were surveyed in the spring of 2013, the summer of 2013/14 and the spring of 2014, to gauge their attitudes to cattle enteric methane emissions and their contribution to Australia’s national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and their awareness and knowledge of the opportunity to reduce GHG emissions through animal breeding. A total of 452 participants responded to the survey, with most (75%) identifying themselves as involved in commercial beef cattle production, 6% as being specialist bull breeders and sellers, 11% as being involved in a combination of both, and 8% in other roles, such as private or government advisor. When asked about the importance of trying to reduce methane emissions from beef cattle most respondents were neutral about its importance (47%) or thought it not important (32%) but the proportion of respondents believing it important increased (P<0.01) in each survey period (9% v. 13% v. 20% across the three periods). On the question of whether it was possible to breed cattle for lower methane emissions, 17% of respondents thought that it was not possible. Most respondents were neutral (38%) or did not know (21%) whether breeding for lower methane emissions was likely to compromise productivity. However, only 10% of those identifying as “managers” answered “don’t know” to whether productivity would be compromised, compared to 27% of “owners”, suggesting that a higher proportion of managers have considered this issue. Although a growing proportion of participants across the survey period thought reducing enteric methane emissions to be important, overall more than three-quarters did not, indicating that at the time of the surveys most cattle producers in NSW would be unlikely to adopt changes in their enterprise solely to reduce enteric methane GHG emissions.

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