The Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) has confirmed that 100 of 250 carbon surveys of Northern Ireland Beef and Lamb Farm Quality Assurance Scheme (NIBL FQAS) farms have been completed as part of a carbon data collection research and development exercise.

Interim chief executive, Colin Smith said: “The remaining 150 surveys will be completed during the months of October, November and December.

“The information gathered will be used to test the process of carbon data collection on farm and if data quality is sufficient, can be used to determine a carbon footprint for each individual business.

“The initial surveys will specifically provide a carbon baseline for each business that is surveyed.”

The information gathered from the research and development phase will also be used to continually refine and improve the carbon survey process.

“Large numbers of farm quality beef and sheep farms operate other enterprises within their businesses: dairy, pigs, poultry, arable etc.,” he continued.

“As a consequence, surveying these farms, across all of their enterprises will allow a carbon calculation on a whole farm basis.”

Research into carbon farm surveys

The carbon surveys are carried out as a ‘bolt-on’ to a scheduled farm quality assurance inspection.

“Each of the farmers taking part in this research and development work is selected at random. The farmer is supplied with a checklist with helpful templates to aid preparation ahead of the farm visit,” Smith continued.

“If the checklist has been completed prior to the actual survey taking place, then the additional time required to complete the process on the day of the inspection will be in the region of 90 minutes.

“The farmers will also be contacted by LMC beforehand giving an opportunity to secure whatever advice they need.”

He added that some red meat and dairy processers have also committed to assist farmers in advance of the farm visit.

Smith has pointed out that LMC is carrying out these surveys on behalf of Northern Ireland’s Carbon Steering Group (CSG).

The CSG has been set up to represent farmers and the agri-food industry, and progress with the carbon element of Northern Ireland’s sustainability agenda.

The collaboration has been built on the recognition that an industry wide coordinated approach is the most effective way to ensure the farming sectors are heard and that the best solutions are achieved for everyone in Northern Ireland.

“The farming industry must establish a baseline carbon footprint, which will be important in evidencing our sustainability credentials,” Smith continued.

“The research and development phase is the first step in this process. Beyond this, industry and government are looking at a more extensive body of work to identify the carbon footprint of agriculture in Northern Ireland as a whole.

“The information gathered in this way must be relevant and accurate across the industry as a whole.”