A New Brunswick cattle rancher is measuring the amount of greenhouse gas emitted by dairy farms across the province, looking at ways to reduce those amounts and exploring the idea of selling the improved rates for carbon credits on the open market.

Cedric MacLeod, who is also an agricultural economist, says the project, also being done in Alberta, is the first of its kind in the world.

"We talk about this a lot in agriculture — we’re environmental stewards, we’re doing everything we can to protect the environment because we live in that environment — and this is a way to actually put some numbers on it.

"We can quantify that, so it’s pretty exciting," said MacLeod, owner of Local Valley Beef, near Centreville.

'A more efficient farm has fewer emissions and is also a more profitable farm, so that’s where we’re always trying to head in agriculture.'—Cedric MacLeod, agricultural economist

The Atlantic Dairy and Forage has hired him to collect data from 50 New Brunswick dairy farms, including how many cows they have, the quality of the feed, how much milk they produce and how manure is managed.

Based on those variables, MacLeod will use a formula that's been developed by researchers to determine how much carbon a farm emits.

"What it usually works out to is about one litre of milk produces one kilogram of CO2 equivalents," he said.

"It’s also a way for us to assess how efficient they are. Basically, a more efficient farm has fewer emissions and is also a more profitable farm, so that’s where we’re always trying to head in agriculture."

MacLeod hopes to have a clear picture of the gas profile of New Brunswick dairy farms by the end of the year and will rank them from worst to best by comparing to a baseline from previous years.

"Then we’ll be able to say, ‘Look, on these 50 dairy farms, we found say, you know 100 tonnes of carbon credits per farm, times 50, there’s 5,000 tonnes of carbon. Who’s interested? Who wants to show some corporate responsibility?’

"And throw those out on the market and see if we can stimulate something."

Carbon credits could be a new revenue source for the farmers, said MacLeod.

Decreasing their carbon footprint could also help improve their image, he said.