Greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced from the main livestock types by 23% and ammonia emissions by 15% if wide scale and highly effective mitigations are adopted across UK farms. This is a key finding of the April 2022 report published by CIEL.
Rapid and widespread change needed to meet net zero targets for livestock
The report April 2022 is believed to be the first of its kind to model and collate data at this scale. It covers a range of mitigating scenarios in real life case studies across dairy, beef, sheep, pig and poultry farms.
CIEL commissioned an independent consortium of expert scientists from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), Queen’s University Belfast, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and Rothamsted Research to deliver the report.
The publication follows on from ‘Net Zero Carbon & UK Livestock’, produced in 2020, which established benchmarks for a range of farming systems across the main livestock types in the UK.
‘Net Zero & Livestock: How farmers can reduce emissions’ goes a step further to look at a wide range of mitigation options that can help reduce emissions at farm level. The report aims to provide farmers, advisers, supply chain partners and policymakers with the information to support evidence-based decision making when it comes to farming in a net zero world.
As acknowledged in the report’s conclusions, there are many positives to take from the findings. However, the report reaffirms the substantial change required if the UK’s livestock industry is to achieve its net zero target for 2050.
The report April 2022 emphasises a need for most farmers to focus on improving herd or flock production efficiency in the drive to reduce their carbon footprint. Increasing productivity per animal while reducing input costs, and maintaining overall productivity at the same level, is something that can be done now. Farmers can focus on aspects such as age at which females first breed and their productive lifespan; the number of offspring produced and their growth rate; and rate of milk or egg production. With input costs being top of mind for many in our industry, the potential efficiencies around feed, forage and nutrient management are particularly pertinent.
The importance of new technologies and wide-scale adoption is also critical to reduce emissions further. The use of rumen methane inhibitors was one mitigation strategy modelled on dairy, beef and sheep case study farms and detailed in the report. The assumed efficacy of this technology could be considered high. Work is ongoing to help bring these technologies to market and develop delivery mechanisms that are better suited to grazing systems and less dependent on concentrate feeding.
The report calls out a range of mitigations which when used in combination can contribute to both reducing the carbon footprint of farms as well as reducing national emissions of greenhouse gases.
Although the report April 2022 delivers positive, practical solutions for the industry, it also highlights that change on-farm requires collective effort. Everyone within the supply chains must work together to reduce emissions while still producing the nutritious, safe food the UK needs. Farmers cannot, and should not, be expected to deliver this on their own. The report re-confirms that the livestock industry could deliver a large reduction in greenhouse gases to significantly contribute to the goal of net zero carbon by 2050, but even that requires universal adoption of the various known mitigations across all livestock farms in the UK – something that is not being currently achieved.
There is critical need for new innovations and for change to be rapid and widespread, actively supporting adoption of both known and new mitigations.
Read more below, and download your own copy of the full report April 2022, ‘Net Zero & Livestock: How farmers can reduce emissions’