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Optimising Production While Reducing Costs and Emissions in Claremorris

Jarlath Ruane farms in conjunction with his father Austin in Corbally outside Claremorris. They run a dairy calf to beef system alongside a flock of lowland sheep. Jarlath is part of the Teagasc Signpost Programme under the Dairy Beef 500 banner. Cathal Conaty, Advisor, Teagasc Claremorris has more

As part of the programme, Jarlath is looking to further improve the efficiencies on his farm while at the same time reducing the total emissions from the farm. This will be done by focusing on the following areas:

Reduce Age at Slaughter – Jarlath targets finishing his stock by 22-23 months. By hitting this target Jarlath reduces his methane emissions, feed requirement and slurry production. Each month he finishes his stock earlier he increases profitability by approximately €30/head and reduces his Carbon dioxide equivalent by approximately 350 kg CO2e/head.  By achieving this he reduces his total farm emissions and increases farm profitability. To reach this target Jarlath implements excellent grassland management, has a herd health plan in place and makes high quality silage.

Improve Animal Health – By creating a herd health plan in conjunction with his Vet, Jarlath has increased animal performance and reduced calf mortality.  By reducing health problems especially in the calf rearing stage, Jarlath has improved lifetime animal performance, reduced costs and increased profitability.  These improvements in health also help to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions per kg of meat produced on Jarlath’s farm reducing his carbon footprint. In the herd health plan Jarlath has a vaccination programme, a hygiene programme, remedy & diagnoses records and buys his calves through trusted local sources.

Low emission slurry spreading – When applying slurry Jarlath’s contractor uses a low emission slurry spreader. Using this technology less of the nitrogen in the slurry is lost to the atmosphere and means he requires less chemical Nitrogen. The slurry retains an extra 3 units of N/1,000 gallons of cattle slurry and reduces ammonia emissions from slurry by up to 30% while also reducing nitrous oxide emissions through reduced chemical N use.

Improve soil fertility – Jarlath plans on continuing to improving his soil fertility through regular soil analysis. He will focus on correcting his pH to 6.3 on his mineral soils by spreading the required amount of lime.  Correcting soil pH will not only improve grass production and farm profitability but will also reduce nitrous oxide emissions on the farm through more efficient use of chemical fertilisers applied.

Use protected urea – Jarlath is sourcing protected urea this year as his main straight nitrogen, while sticking to his normal compound mix of 18.6.12. The protected urea slows the rate at which urea is converted to ammonium thereby reducing ammonia emission.  Switching from CAN fertilizer to protected urea will substantially reduce nitrous oxide emissions on the farm.  Protected urea has 71% lower nitrous oxide emissions than CAN.  When broken down into the cost per kilogram of nitrogen, protected urea is still cheaper than CAN and grows similar grass yields to CAN.

Grazing management – Jarlath is excellent at grassland management.  He has a very good paddock system in place and he measures grass growth weekly using PastureBase Ireland. This benefits both Jarlath and the environment as every extra tonne of grass dry matter (DM) grown and utilised is worth €105/ha to him and there is reduced methane and nitrous oxide emissions due to shorter winter housing and improved animal performance.

Incorporate white clover – Jarlath has and will continue to incorporate clover into his paddocks. The clover mix swards increase profitability by 14% when compared to a ‘conventional’ pasture and will reduce the chemical nitrogen usage on the farm thus lowering nitrous oxide emissions providing a win:win scenario for Jarlath.  Jarlath will continue to target the incorporation of clover on his best mineral soils that have a good pH, phosphorus and potassium status.  

Reducing chemical N fertiliser – Jarlath plans on reducing the overall level of chemical nitrogen used to reduce the nitrous oxide emissions from his farm.  He will achieve this by focusing on optimising his soil fertility, spreading lime on low pH soils, incorporating clover into his grazing swards and using low emission slurry spreading. This reduction in chemical fertilizer use will result in lower nitrous oxide emissions, reduce the possibility of nitrate losses to water and will reduce the farms overall emissions. Currently Jarlath is maximising his chemical nitrogen fertilizer use by targeting applications at the right rate, the right time of year and on fields that will give the best response to nitrogen fertiliser at this time of year.

To follow Jarlath’s story stay tuned for upcoming farm walks and updates on @TeagascMayo twitter and facebook accounts.

Find out more here about Jarlath Ruane's farm  Find out more here about Dairy Calf to Beef