Guidelines for environmental performance of feed additives launched

The Minister for Agriculture has addressed an international gathering of stakeholders at the launch of the FAO Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance (LEAP) Guidelines on the environmental performance of feed additives in livestock supply chains.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue spoke to stakeholders from across the pillars of research, government, civil society and industry yesterday (Monday, September 21).

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) LEAP guidelines were developed by a working group composed of 26 experts from 15 countries to help estimate the environmental burdens associated with the production of feed additives and the environmental benefits from their use in livestock production

Welcoming the launch of the guidelines, the minister said: “Research is critical in progressing state-of-the-art technologies to improve both the carbon efficiency and climate resilience of Irish agriculture.

For example, the ‘METH-ABATE’ project funded by my department and led by Teagasc is looking at the development and validation of novel technologies to reduce methane emissions from pasture based Irish agricultural systems.

“This includes evaluating a number of feed additives to mitigate methane emissions while simultaneously monitoring animal productivity.

“There is also a large industry and government funded project called Vista Milk within which the reduction of methane emissions from the dairy herd feature strongly in it.”

According to the Department of Agriculture, feed additives have many functions including: increasing nutrient absorption; reducing methane emissions from enteric fermentation; and reducing nutrients emissions from management and deposition of manure.

Given the proliferation of environmental assessment methodologies and the need to provide evidence in support of policies on sustainable livestock production, the FAO LEAP Partnership has worked on the harmonisation of methods to assess the environmental footprint of feed additives as set out in these guidelines.

Ireland, through the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Teagasc, has been an active member of the FAO LEAP Partnership for many years and is an active supporter of research and innovation into new technologies such as feed additives.

The minister said: ‘‘For many countries, livestock represents a major pillar for food security, ecosystem services and GDP.

“In Ireland, the agri-food sector is our most important indigenous industry.

“Nevertheless, there are challenges ahead for the livestock sector globally and I believe that Ireland has a leadership role to play in plotting a course towards a future food production system which does not impact negatively on the environment,” Minister McConalogue concluded.