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Climate Actions for Beef Farmers

Key mitigation actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on beef farms

Improve Replacement Index

How it works

Better fertility, reducing GHG emissions from non-productive animals and improved efficiency.

Impact at farm level

The progeny of 5 star females improved  pro­fitability by €60/animal compared to 1 star animals

Benefit to the environment

High replacement animals have a lower methane output/animal than lower replacement index animals, up to a 20% difference in total methane output. Reduces footprint

Actions Needed by Beef Farmers

Increase the Replacement Index of your herd by €5 per year


Reduce age at slaughter

How it works

Reducing age at slaughter reduces methane emissions, feed required and slurry produced

Impact at farm level

Each month earlier in slaughter age increases profitability by approximately €30/head

Benefit to the environment

Each month earlier in slaughter age reduces CO2e by approximately 350 kg CO2e/head. Reduces footprint and total emissions

Actions Needed by Beef Farmers

Use Euro Star Index for breeding replacements (Replacement Index) and finishing cattle (Terminal Index), implement better grassland management, implement a health plan, make better quality silage.


Improve animal health

How it works

Increased animal performance, reduced replacement rate and reduced number of non-productive animals, reduced mortality

Impact at farm level

Reducing health problems will improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase profitability

Benefit to the environment

Improvements in health will reduce GHG emissions per unit of meat. Reduces footprint

Actions Needed by Beef Farmers

Implement a health, plan/vaccination programme. Implement good stock importing practices


Low emissions slurry spreading

How it works

Less nitrogen (N) volatilisation. Increases the N fertilizer value of slurry. Reduces the total chemical N inputs.

Impact at farm level

Retains an extra 3 units of N/1,000 gallons of cattle slurry.

Benefit to the environment

Reduces ammonia emissions from slurry by up to 30% and nitrous oxide emissions through reduced chemical N use.  Reduces footprint & total emissions.

Actions Needed by Beef Farmers

Switch to using LESS equipment for all slurry spreading


Reducing chemical N fertiliser use

How it works

Reduces nitrous oxide emissions 

Impact at farm level

Reduction in farm profitability unless soil fertility is optimised, spread lime, use clover and LESS

Benefit to the environment

Reduce nitrous oxide emissions and nitrate losses to water.   Reduces footprint & total emissions.

Actions Needed by Beef Farmers

Target application of chemical N – right rate & right time of year & right location. Target silage ground. Optimise use of slurry


Improve soil fertility

How it works

Reduces nitrous oxide emissions 

Impact at farm level

Improved grass production leading to improved profitability

Benefit to the environment

Reduce nitrous oxide emissions.   Reduces footprint & total emissions

Actions Needed by Beef Farmers

Get lime right first


Use protected urea

How it works

Slows the rate at which urea is converted to ammonium, reducing nitrous oxide emissions.

Impact at farm level

Protected urea is slightly cheaper than CAN and grows similar grass yields to CAN

Benefit to the environment

Protected urea has 71% lower nitrous oxide emissions than CAN. Reduces footprint & total emissions

Actions Needed by Beef Farmers

Replace all straight nitrogen (N) with protected urea


Grazing management

How it works

Animals grazing better quality forage produce less GHG. Therefore, better grazing management and less silage in the diet is beneficial while shorter housing also leads to less slurry and improved performance

Impact at farm level

Every extra tonne of grass dry matter (DM) grown and utilised/ha is worth €105 to the beef farmer

Benefit to the environment

Reduces methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Reduces footprint

Actions Needed by Beef Farmers

  • Walk your farm weekly
  • Measure grass
  • Use PastureBase Ireland
  • Improve infrastructure
  • Avoid poaching

Incorporate white clover

How it works

Nitrous oxide emission reduction is achieved from lower chemical N fertiliser use (up to 100 kg N/ha)

Impact at farm level

Profitability increased by 14% greater for the grass/clover system when compared to a ‘conventional’ pasture

Benefit to the environment

Can reduce nitrous oxide emissions due to reduced chemical N fertiliser use.  Reduces footprint & total emissions

Actions Needed by Beef Farmers

Over a 5 year period, aim to have white clover in at least 30% of your paddocks (at a minimum average annual sward clover content of 20%)


 


Carbon Footprint Beef

Carbon Footprint Beef (PDF)

View Video: Carbon footprint and suitable actions to reduce emissions on a suckler farm - YouTube

Know Your Number

As farmers, you are being asked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from your farming system to control global warming. But where do you start? Many dairy and beef farmers have a carbon emissions figure available to them but many are not aware of this information.

After each Bord Bia audit, all certified dairy and beef farmers receive a Farmer Feedback Report from Bord Bia with their farm’s carbon footprint as well as an assessment of farm productivity, nutrient management, grassland, animal feeding and farm safety.

The carbon footprint refers to how much greenhouse gases (GHG) are emitted from an activity such as the production of milk or meat or driving a car or taking a flight. The emissions of all GHG gases are expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2 Eq). In farming, the production of every kg of milk or meat or grain has a carbon footprint.

How is the carbon footprint calculated?

There are four sources of data required to complete an accurate calculation of a farms carbon footprint, using the Teagasc model.

  1. Animal Identification and Movements Database (AIM) – DAFM – Beef and Dairy
  2. Daily Live Weight Gain - Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) – Beef Only
  3. Milk Production Data – Dairy Processors - Dairy Only
  4. Sustainability Survey – Scheme Members – Beef and Dairy. The sustainability survey is the only data source required for the carbon footprint calculation that is collected directly from the farmer. 

How does the information provided in the Sustainability Survey relate to the carbon footprint?

  1. Turnout and housing influences the calculation of manure storage emissions, grazing and digestion related emissions.
  2. Manure management calculates the emissions from the application and storage of manure on the farm.
  3. Concentrate feeding rates calculates the emissions associated with the production of concentrate feed fed to animals.
  4. Fertilizer application data are required to track the emissions from the production of fertilizers and minerals and the emissions related to the application of fertilizer to the land.

It is important to note that inaccuracies in the data provided via the sustainability survey can result in an inaccurate carbon footprint and grass-fed result, and farmer feedback report.

When do you get the Farmer Feedback Report?

The feedback report is posted to the farmer within one week of certification of the Bord Bia audit. It can also be accessed from the audit portal website, farm.bordbia.ie using your herd number and pin (which you can reset if you have forgotten it).

Where do you find the carbon footprint on the report?

The carbon footprint is displayed on the first page of the report. The example above is for a suckler to beef farm – the carbon footprint for this farm is 11.75 kg CO2 / kg live weight which is 5% lower than it was in 2018 and compares well to the national average for suckler to beef herds which have a carbon footprint of 13.28 kg CO2 / kg live weight.

How do you know what is contributing to your carbon footprint?

On page three, a graph displays the percentage share of carbon emissions on your farm under the following headings and farm activities: animal digestion; manure; fertiliser; forage/feed production; other (e.g. transport, fuel, etc.).

In the information and advice section, there are green and white-shaded bullet points, what do these colours indicate?

The advice is broken down into two levels of activity. The green leaf is related to actions specifically set out in the Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC). These actions are provided to encourage farmers to engage with the Climate Action Plan and make farmers more informed on those types of actions. The white leaf relates to more general information.

Please contact your local Teagasc advisor to discuss the carbon footprint for your farm and the actions you might take.

www.teagasc.ie/signpost