Going eco-friendly makes good sense
Published 08/02/2012 | 06:00
THE United Nations has stated that by 2030, the planet will need to produce 50pc more food to feed the ever-growing world population. This increase in food production will have to be achieved with less land, water and energy while greenhouse gas emissions are also reduced. Major global food players have already started taking the issue of carbon footprint very seriously and are looking for suppliers at all levels to play their part. Agriculture, and in particular ruminant livestock production, is widely perceived to contribute a significant proportion of carbon emissions and is therefore very much in the spotlight.
Carbon footprinting is a process of determining the emissions of three greenhouse gases produced during an animal's lifetime, namely: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).
There is a growing interest among the retail sector and the general public in the production of food in a way that has least impact on climate change. Ireland's green and natural image helps sell Irish beef around the world. Being able to prove that Irish beef is produced in an environmentally friendly manner will help the promotion and sale of Irish beef overseas.
Ireland has a great opportunity to accurately establish our carbon-footprint output and then select the most carbon-friendly beef production systems. The marketing of our beef internationally by displaying our low-carbon footprint and our ongoing efforts at lowering our carbon output will enhance the reputation of our beef.
The main source of methane in beef production comes from the digestive system of all animals. By increasing growth rates through better dry-matter intake, feed utilisation and improved feed conversion efficiencies animals will grow faster and more efficiently and total methane emissions per kilo of beef produced will be lowered. Some simple measures that can be undertaken to help reduce methane emissions include:
• Making best use of grazed grass during the grazing season;
• Producing high-quality forages that are dry, well fermented and palatable;
• Balancing the dietary fibre and energy levels within an animal's diet when housed to improve feed efficiency;