The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and overall carbon footprint on-farm is something the industry is taking very seriously, according to the CEO of Animal Health and Welfare NI (AHWNI).

Dr. Sam Strain was speaking at the ‘Healthy Animals – Healthy Environment’ conference in Templepatrick, Co. Antrim on October 11.

He said:

“As recent studies have shown, poor animal health is a major constraint on efficient livestock production, and therefore a significant root cause of excess emissions.

“Tackling endemic disease has a clear impact on farm efficiency by increasing growth rate, reducing days to slaughter, and increasing reproductive performance.

“This in turn will reduce methane emissions, potentially by as much as 10%.”

Dr. Strain also highlighted the work of another speaker at the event, Dr Philip Skuce from the Moredun Institute in Edinburgh, who shared key findings from his recent report ‘Acting on Methane’.

The report highlighted the role that reducing key endemic diseases in ruminants can play in reducing methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

“The baseline work on GHG diseases, funded by both the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the Scottish government, found that improving livestock health and welfare could reduce methane emissions by 10%,” said Dr.Skuce.

“For example, studies reveal that gastrointestinal parasites lead to a minimum 10% increase in GHG emissions in lamb production.

“Similarly, liver fluke infection adds an extra 11 days to slaughter in cattle, reducing growth rate by 4% and adding 2% to the GHG footprint.”

Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Edwin Poots said: “I was delighted to open the conference on ‘Healthy Animals – Healthy Environment’ marking AHWNI’s 10 year anniversary.

“AHWNI has made a significant impact since its formation in 2012 becoming the principal organisation within Northern Ireland with responsibilities for developing programmes to assist farmers in tackling some of the most important endemic diseases of cattle including BVD and Johne’s Disease. 

“In addition, AHWNI has become a provider of farmer training and an important research partner in animal health.”

“Endemic disease on farms has a direct impact on greenhouse gas emissions as livestock productivity will drop through reduced yields, fertility issues or early mortality or culling.

“This in turn increases the amount of emissions per unit of animal product. AHWNI is a valued partner for my department and I look forward to all that will be achieved in the next 10 years too with the dual aims of improving animal health and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”