Dairy leaders defend sector's strategy on carbon targets
Farmers 'up for the challenge' of cutting emissions, says Dairy Industry Ireland
Dairy processors have defended the industry's record on curbing emissions as it emerged milk producers generate up to three times more Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions than other farming practices.
The farm sustainability study from Teagasc found the rising herd sizes on expanding dairy farms were cancelling out any overall gains being made by farmers on carbon efficiency.
But Dairy Industry Ireland's Conor Mulvihill insisted dairy farmers are up for the "challenge" to reduce the industry's emissions.
"The growth production of anything grows overall emissions. While Dairy Industry Ireland represents the processing industry, we are not blind that our farmers are vital in driving solutions around the industry's efforts," he said.
ICOS president Michael Spellman pointed out that while there "are no quick fixes" when it comes to mitigation, Ireland's low-cost, grass-based system delivers the highest animal welfare and environmental standards.
"Grass-based dairy and beef production will remain the backbone of Irish farming - it underpins the cost competitiveness and sustainable credentials of Irish agriculture as leafy grass is a good carbon sink," he said.
Kerry Group's Frank Hayes added that while there is "no silver bullet" for reducing the industry's carbon footprint, "all aspects of innovation need to be considered and the potential for increased afforestation and sequestration need to be looked at".
Meanwhile, Teagasc Ecologist John Finn said a recent study he conducted showed that intensive arable, dairy and beef farms had an average of 7pc of land dedicated to biodiversity.