As part of Agriland’s three-part Young Farmer Series, we spoke to suckler and sheep farmer David McKearney (aged 25) from Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan about the challenges of climate change adaptations in agriculture.

David said that the main challenge for all young farmers is meeting the required climate reduction targets under the Climate Action Plan.

Under the plan, the agricultural sector must reduce emissions by 25% by 2030.

David said that his family farm made numerous adaptations in recent years.

Climate change

A couple of years ago, the farm joined the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) Soil Sampling Programme.

From there, David said that the family was able to develop a nutrient management plan, which allowed them to cut down on the use of fertiliser.

The nutrient plan not only reduced the runoff on land, but also reduced costs in the long run for applying nutrients.

David said the farm has also implemented low emission slurry spreading (LESS), allowing him to see better growths, to utilise more grass and make better use of organics.

The farm has also moved towards having higher genetic merit animals, which have “less of a carbon footprint”.

“We’ve got a very milky suckler herd here. Over the last two years, we’ve been crossing them back with high genetic angus merit bulls. From that, we’ve seen improved growth rates.

“Obviously we’re talking a very different animal from the Charolais that we were used to. They’re smaller, but we’re finding that they’re more efficient in converting their feed,” David said.

He added that the higher genetic merit animals are “easier finished” as well. Since the change, the family has begun finishing the animals earlier, focusing on 16-month bull beef.


David said that while a lot needs to be done in terms of climate mitigation, that by looking at the Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC), farmers are assured that emission reductions are achievable.

David said there needs to be “high levels of uptake” for all measures outlined in the MACC curve.

Going forward he would like to see another scheme from DAFM for farmers unable to participate in the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES).

David said it would allow more farmers to do their part for biodiversity and the climate.

While all farmers are adapting to new climate change measures, David said that it is a challenge for young farmers, but he doesn’t think it holds people back from joining the sector.

He said that farming has an “ageing population” due to its unsociable hours and “work/life balance”.