The pig industry has laid down bold targets to reduce its environmental impact, above those set by government. But all sectors of the livestock industry should aim to achieve production efficiencies that will in turn bring environmental benefits.
The BPEX Roadmap was launched at the 2011 Outlook Conference, jointly hosted by BPEX, EBLEX and DairyCo, in Westminster on Wednesday (27 April). It sets out targets for the reduction of key environmental burdens over the next 10 years:
•17% reduction in carbon dioxide equivalents emissions
•15% reduction in phosphates
•15% reduction in sulphur dioxide equivalents
•16% reduction in antimony equivalents, that reflect use of scarce minerals and fossil fuels.
Ambitiously above Defra‘s targets of an 11% reduction in emissions, the pig industry is already well on the way to achieving them, BPEX chairman Stewart Houston said.
“For a number of years already the industry has been improving efficiency, increasing productivity and sharpening competitiveness and doing so in ways that enhance the sustainability of the sector.”
There are clear benefits for producers, according to the report’s author, BPEX environment programme manager Nigel Penlington. “It’s about efficiencies of production and recovery of manures and slurries. There are real opportunities here.”
The big hotspots are feed and feed efficiency. The roadmap aims to help producers identify the aspects of their business they can improve to produce more for less. “It comes down to good feed and healthy animals, well-trained staff and suitable buildings. The BPEX knowledge transfer and health and welfare strategies help deliver the goals producers set.” An example is current work on sustainable soya and alternative forms of protein.
Having started with carbon footprinting in 2009, EBLEX is in phase two of its roadmap for beef and sheep producers. Some 70% of all nitrous oxide emissions come from agriculture and 85% of methane is from rumen fermentation, said industry development manager Chris Lloyd.
The average beef production footprint is 11.9kg CO2 equivalent a kilogram liveweight. But this varies from 3.2 to 26.9kg. “That’s a big range. We want to understand what constitutes best and what the better farmers are doing.”
The aim is to hang figures on this and produce an interactive “What if” calculator to help producers find the best things to change that will bring the biggest reductions in emissions. “It’s a win-win because the answers lie in increasing efficiency, fertility and longevity which also improve margins.”
For Farmers Weekly 2010 Pig Farmer of the Year Andrew McCrae, the link with productivity is vital. “It’s a great thing to set environmental targets, but the key to success is when the two go together. The cost of feed is rising so significantly, any savings you can make add value, and if that benefits the environment, that’s great.”