One of the most topical items in the news at the moment is the climate action bill, with many debates held over the impact that proposed plans will have on the future of Irish farming.

With the targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) being one element of the bill – Andrew Crombie from the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) has suggested that a reduction in the national age of slaughter may be the solution to avoid culling cows from the national suckler or dairy herd.

Speaking on this month’s ‘Lets talk cattle’ webinar hosted by Teagasc, Andrew spoke about research carried out in the ICBF test centre in Tully, Co. Kildare, on methane production from finishing cattle, illustrating a benefit to GHG emissions output.

“If you take that we are slaughtering close to 1.32 million prime cattle per year, and their average performance – 345kg, 26-months-old at slaughter- as a starting point,” he explained.

“For each one month or thirty days reduced in the lead up slaughter, when you calculate the figures, that is the equivalent of almost 250kt of GHG reduced.

“To put this into context, that is the equivalent of 4% of the total GHG output from our national cattle herd.

“To express it in a way that resonates more strongly with people, it’s the equivalent of not having to cull almost 100,000 cows, whether they be beef or dairy cows.

“It is a really important point,” he added.

“I think that is why we need to be looking at this as a potential proposition because there are certainly people that will try to bring in more draconian measures, such as culling cows from the national herd, and that is no ones best interest.

“It’s a real opportunity to think positively of the carbon, climate and profit efficiency gains that we can get from finishing these cattle at an earlier age of slaughter.”

dosing cattle age of slaughter

‘Farmers need to lead this change of reducing age at slaughter’

Speaking further about the topic with the webinar’s host, Alan Dillion from Teagasc, Andrew stated:

“There is an onus on everyone for this change, but farmers really need to lead it. They need to be asking ‘what are the credible alternatives?’

” [Reducing the age of slaughter] is very well in line with efficiency targets, profitability and sustainability – so there are lots of wins with this,” he added.

“There are blueprints in place and there are lots of support for this change, but I also acknowledge the point that there are additional costs [to reducing the age of slaughter].

“Although, if there was a willingness for farmers to aid this change and there were some incentives or structures put in place to help and promote that, however that might happen. This may be through extra programmes or bonuses, it has to be seriously look at and considered,” he concluded.