As part of the Origin Green programme, Bord Bia, in collaboration with Teagasc, have developed a new Farmer Feedback Report that all members of Bord Bia’s Sustainable Assurance Schemes for beef, lamb, and dairy will receive following their audit.

The feedback report is generated from data gathered during the audit, through the sustainability survey, and includes a summary of the farm’s environmental performance and advice on how to mitigate against farm emissions and improve production efficiencies.

Bord Bia have teamed up with AgriLand to bring to you an informative video series – Farmer Feedback Report – to explain how the Farmer Feedback Report can be used by farmers across four main areas.

  • Feed and animal productivity;
  • Slurry application;
  • Fertiliser use;
  • General on-farm emissions.

In the first article/video, Dr. Eleanor Murphy, Origin Green data manager, Bord Bia, gives an insight into why the report was introduced, and how farmers can use the data collected to improve their farming enterprises.

Also Read: Video: How can I improve the environmental and efficiency performance of my farm?

In the following video, Dr. Murphy explains the enteric fermentation process and outlines what farmers can do to control methane emissions as a result of the digestion of feed in the animal’s gut.

A rise in animal numbers can increase methane emissions; however, a focus on improving animal productivity, improved grass yield and utilisation, and maintaining good herd health, can help manage these emissions.

Dr. Murphy notes that the largest contributor – on livestock enterprises – to on-farm emissions is the actual animals themselves, stating that emissions from animals can range from 40% to 50%, depending on the productivity of the system on the farm.

These emissions are produced from the oxygen-free environment in the animal’s gut where feed is digested and, in turn, the greenhouse gas (GHG) methane is produced.

Emissions from feed occur in the production and utilisation of imported feed (concentrates) onto the farm. These emissions can be driven by the individual ingredients of concentrates, such as soy sourced from South America.

However, Dr. Murphy explains that animal-produced emissions can be influenced maximising the proportion of grazed grass and grass silage in the animal’s diet, thus reducing the need for imported feed.

She also outlines that farmers need to look at the productivity of the system and of the animals on the farm, and look at key target parameters.

On the dairy side of the house, increasing a herd’s Economic Breeding Index (EBI) can not only have financial benefits for farmers, but many of these gains can directly contribute to reducing GHG emissions, resulting in a more sustainable cow.

For example, improving the cow fertility will result in a reduced calving interval, therefore producing more calves/cow/year. This also increases the longevity of the cow in the herd, thus reducing methane emissions per unit of product.

In addition, a more compact calving pattern is beneficial, as more grazed grass can be included in the cow’s diet.

Increasing EBI will also reduce emissions by improving cow performance which reduces the emissions per kilogram of dairy produce. Improvements can also be made in terms of health and survival – reduced disease leads to better performance and a lower replacement rate, again reducing emissions on farm.

Another aspect that Dr. Murphy highlights is the efficiency of an animal in terms of performance and liveweight gain.

Maximising daily liveweight gain – and hitting required market specifications – will not only increase the productivity of that animal, but it will also reduce the age at slaughter and, therefore, offset the amount of emissions coming from enteric fermentation.

On the suckler and beef side, by selecting under the Replacement (maternal) Index, there is a significant opportunity to reduce GHG from the suckler herd in the future.

Using high-ranking Replacement Index bulls to sire more efficient progeny will significantly reduce GHG emissions.

Moreover, 5-star cows are more profitable, sustainable and more carbon efficient when compared to 1-star cows. Essentially, they are cows that will produce more from less.