Beef producer Rodda Manning could be the first grazier in Australia to offer carbon emissions data alongside his cattle in the saleyard.
The Mansfield farmer displayed signs at Wangaratta's annual weaner sale this month declaring the cattle had been 'carbon footprint assessed'.
Trading as Davilak Pastoral Co, his consignment of 700 Angus steers, 10 months, averaged 711 cents a kilogram or $2530 a head, 355 kilograms, and is believed to be the first draft marketed on their CO2 footprint.
"If we can offer a product that could be carbon neutral, then we might attract a premium for that product," Mr Manning said.
His family runs a commercial Angus herd of 1750 autumn breeders and 150 spring-joined cows across 2100 hectares of freehold and 320ha of leased land.
They sell most of their steers at Wangaratta in January and usually retain about 400 heifers as replacements to rejoin, with another 200-300 heifers run on until November for the Coles Graze Grassfed program.
"It was something we had talked about for a while as the carbon aspect of farming gains momentum," he said.
"Agriculture cops a bit of flack for carbon emissions and whether that's a true reflection of the industry or not, cattle farming and beef production is part of that concern."
The cattle were assessed by Queensland company, Integrity Ag & Environment, which determined the cattle had a footprint of 11.9kg of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilogram of beef.
Integrity Ag & Environment principal Stephen Wiedemann said the footprint took into account every emission that went into producing the commodity.
"For beef this means impacts from the inputs used to run a farm such as fuel and fertiliser, and also the emissions generated by the herd, including enteric methane which is a large part of the carbon footprint," he said.
"In the case of the cattle sold by Davilak, the performance is very good for young cattle that are being traded to go on and grow out for domestic or export markets.
"The carbon footprint for cattle, reported per kilogram of beef, generally decreases as cattle grow out to market weight, so we could expect these cattle to perform at the industry best level of 9-11kg CO2 equivalent per kilogram liveweight by the time they are market ready."
Dr Wiedemann said collecting and distributing information throughout the supply chain was key to achieving emissions reductions across the entire sector in order to meet consumer demand.
"We see the development of new markets around low emissions and carbon neutral beef being developed over the next 12 months," he said.
"Fortunately, a low carbon footprint is supported through high herd performance, for example, high herd weaning rates and high growth rate to market, so it's possible for carbon and business objectives to support each other.
"However, this is the first opportunity where there was merit in communicating the carbon footprint of cattle where they're being traded."
While the concept is in its infancy, he said providing carbon footprint assessments would one day allow prospective livestock buyers such as feedlotters to purchase, offset and then on-sell carbon-neutral beef.
"The Davilak operation has joined a benchmarking group around reducing the carbon footprint of cattle across multiple herds in Victoria and NSW," he said.
"This will help build the knowledge base and reduce emissions over time for these enterprises."
Hopkins River director David Maconochie bought 178 steers in Davilak's first steer run at Wangaratta, and said the cattle would be placed on feed at its Anakie feedlot for 100 days.
"We'll follow them through the feedlot and because we have the carbon data from birth to purchase, now we can keep using Integrity Ag to measure their footprint through to the supermarket shelves," he said.
"The main thing for us is big business is starting to go that way and they're starting to look at their carbon footprint so we thought we'd do a trial run on it.
"Major supermarkets have come out and said that they will be carbon neutral by a certain date and that's because of shareholder pressure and inevitably that will go down the supply chain."