Beef farmers identify savings through emissions study

British beef farmers could realise annual savings of up to £23,000 through simple emission-driven farm management changes, research supported by McDonald’s has concluded.

The study, commissioned and funded by McDonald’s UK and carried out by Alltech E-CO2, saw more than 200 beef farmers in the UK and Ireland reduce their carbon footprint by 23% over a six-year period.

One farmer identified annual cost savings £23,000, the report said.

Between 2008 and 2014, more than 1,300 carbon assessments were completed on over 200 British and Irish dairy, beef, finisher, rearer finisher and store producer farms.

On average, beef farmers in the study reduced their carbon footprints by 4.6% a year – significantly higher than the 0.94% industry benchmark.

See also: 63% of dairy farmers not interested in measuring emissions

The greatest overall reduction in carbon emissions was seen on finisher farms (27%) and the smallest on the assessed rearer finisher farms (11%).

Launched today at the NFU Conference in Birmingham, the report includes a list of measures McDonald’s claims can help beef farmers achieve similar results and meet the 11% voluntary carbon reduction target set by the UK government for 2020:

  1. Measure and monitor your farm operations to track performance
  2. Benchmark performance against other producers in your sector
  3. Focus on daily liveweight gains to reduce days on farm and digestive emissions
  4. Monitor and improve animal health to ensure welfare, reduce calf mortality and increase productivity
  5. Maximise homegrown forage
  6. Reduce calving interval

“Our results show that farmers can make real progress towards meeting official carbon reduction targets and that this can be a product of simple, realistic changes to beef production practices,” the McDonald’s report concludes.

“Small changes to management, improving animal health and feed efficiency and reducing high carbon inputs can lead to a significant drop in the emissions from British and Irish beef herds and an improvement in their financial position,” it adds.

Feed savings

By focusing on improving silage quality and feed efficiencies, Dorset beef farmer Andy Foot has identified £23,000 in annual potential savings.

“During the study we made a significant reduction to our emissions, and as a result our carbon footprint is well below the average for our beef production system, making us not only more efficient but crucially more profitable,” says Mr Foot.

“The most important thing for me has been seeing how critical monitoring and evaluating farm efficiency are. For us, this means weighing animals regularly, as well as recording feed, water, electricity, fuel and fertiliser usage,” he adds.

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