2 options: Reduce stocking rates or increase nitrogen efficiency?

Is the real answer to reducing our carbon footprint by increasing nitrogen (N) efficiency rather than reducing stocking rates?

This was the question put to David Wall of Teagasc, who was speaking last Tuesday, January 28, at the Teagasc National Sheep Conference, in the Great Southern Hotel, Killarney, Co. Kerry.

David gave a presentation on efficient nutrient use on sheep farms and how farmers can meet both production and environmental targets.

In response to the question, David said: “That is a very good question and there is a lot of talk about this topic currently.

“In essence, we have two options when it comes to ways of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

60% of the GHG emissions come from livestock, with the remaining 40% coming from N in slurry and fertiliser.

“If we want to meet our targets, we have a choice of which one we are going to either cut back on or improve on.

“If stocking rates stay the same, we have to look at the other side of the pie – which in this case is N.

In the case of N, we have two choices. We either reduce the amount of N we use on the farm or we become more efficient with the N that we are using so that less is going up in the atmosphere.

“People will say we should reduce our stocking rates. However, we have done the calculations, and reducing emissions from N can be done.

“This can be carried out by introducing more clover into swards, using protected urea, and carrying out Low-Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS),” Wall concluded.