Bord Bia is set to begin ‘carbon footprinting’ Quality Assured Irish sheep farms for the first time.
The Lamb Carbon Footprint will be calculated using data provided by farmers through a newly-developed sustainability survey, which farmers will be requested to complete prior to their audit.
The survey is being piloted on a small number of farms in the coming weeks before it becomes a requirement for all sheep farmers undergoing a Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS) audit later this year.
Farmers will be asked to complete the survey prior to their audit, however, the requirements of the audit will not change.
The carbon footprint will be calculated as a kilo of CO2-equivalent per kilo of live weight lamb.
Bord Bia already calculates the carbon footprint of Quality Assured beef and dairy farms, with over 285,000 carbon assessments conducted on Irish beef and dairy farms since 2011.
Capturing carbon emission data
Commenting ahead of the rollout, Deirdre Ryan, director of Origin Green and Sustainable Assurance, said: “We can now capture carbon emission data on approximately 12,000 Quality Assured sheep farms, adding further proof points to the sustainability story of Irish farming in our export markets.”
In tandem with carbon assessments commencing on member farms, Bord Bia said it aims to increase membership of the Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme among Irish sheep farmers.
Ryan added: “While sheep farmer participation in the scheme increased marginally last year, our long-term goal is to raise participation in line with other sectors such as dairy and beef.
“This is necessary to future-proof the sheep sector by enhancing is marketability, sustainability and global reputation.
“We welcome new members all year round and the scheme is evolving to provide more guidance to farmers in relation to sustainability.”
The Sustainability Survey
The survey is similar to the sustainability survey completed by beef and dairy farms but is tailored for sheep enterprises.
The survey will take approximately 10-20 minutes to complete and can be done online, or over the phone (Bord Bia helpdesk: 01 524 0410). Alternatively, farmers can complete a paper form and return by post.
The survey comprises just over two pages and is divided into eight parts:
- Part 1 – Enterprise information: This sections asks farmers to describe the type of sheep farming they undertake e.g lowland or hill; lamb to store, store to slaughter, and their dominant lambing season;
- Part 2 – Housing: This section asks farmers to indicate if animals are housed or outdoors year round, and provide dates for housing and turnout periods;
- Part 3 – Production: This section requests information on average weight and age at sale or slaughter for any stock sold the previous year;
- Part 4 – Animal Numbers: This section requires a little more detail in relation to flock numbers, weight and age at lambing of ewes, lamb weaning weights, and stores purchased and sold;
- Part 5 – Fertiliser: Farmers are asked to give the quantity of fertiliser applied, if any;
- Part 6 and 7 – Silage and purchased forage: Farmers are asked to input the quantity of forage cut or purchased – this could be numbers of silage bales or tonnage of silage or other forage;
- Part 8 – Feed: The final section asks farmers to provide the average quantity of compound ration and/or straights fed to their flock, based upon kg per animal per day.
The sustainability survey completed by beef and dairy farmers is set for a revamp based upon feedback from members.
Additional options will be included for fertiliser usage such as Urea + NBPT (Urease Inhibitor) for farmers applying protected urea. The overall ease-of-use of the survey has also been improved, Bord Bia said.