‘No farmer can afford to be carrying inefficient cattle’ – Minister Creed

The Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, Michael Creed, has acknowledged that carbon emission output could become a new type of “quota system” for the agricultural sector at some stage in the future.

Speaking tonight, on the debut episode of FarmLand – Ireland’s first farming digital broadcast show launched by AgriLand – Minister Creed addressed the ongoing challenge of reducing agricultural emissions, whilst simultaneously continuing to drive the sector forward.

Following a discussion on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform post-2020 and its increased emphasis on the environment, Minister Creed was asked if carbon emission output had the potential to become “the new quota system” for the agri industry. Minister Creed replied:

I think it has the potential to be that probably. We have credentials in the context of our dairy production that, by international comparison, are quite good.

“I mean our carbon footprint for dairy output is, along with New Zealand, probably the best in the world – but is that sufficient to give the dairy sector a pass in the context of our obligations that are legally binding now? No.

“And I think it is not reasonable either that the expanding dairy sector, which I think has potential to continue to expand, but it can’t expect others in the agri space to carry out the sequestration for it,” the minister said.

Dairy focus

He stated that he believes the dairy industry “in particular” will have to do more to address its emissions output.

“Simple things like grassland management, the more we can produce off grass, the more we reduce our carbon footprint,” he said.

Although he stressed that the number of farmers that are doing grassland measurement across all sectors is high, he outlined that it is “nowhere near the level we would like it to be”.

Other suggestions pointed out by Minister Creed included: milk-recording; knowing what cows have the highest somatic cell count; identifying what cows have the highest protein and fats content in their milk; and culling accordingly.

“I don’t think we have the required amount of farmers doing milk-recording – no farmer can afford really, in the context of our climate change obligations, to be carrying inefficient cattle.

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“Whether you are in dairying or beef, we must constantly be improving the genetic merit of our herd and milk recording is a key tool in that regard.

The dairy sector needs to be aware, not least because the market is demanding it, that we need to be best in class in terms of our sustainability credentials.

“We’ve done a lot but we have a lot more to do,” he said.