There is no 'magic bullet' sustainability solution for Irish dairy herd as it grows to 1.6m cows - report
Dairy farmers have been warned against complacency as a new report sets out a strategy to tackle the national dairy herds' carbon footprint.
The Government has already warned the country is on track for major fines of hundreds of millions of euro unless greenhouse gas emissions begin to rapidly reduce.
Dairy cow numbers in Ireland are predicted to hit 1.6m by 2025 and now, a new report from ICOS, which represents over 130 co-operatives in Ireland including dairy processors and livestock marts, found that mitigation in agriculture and food production will require thousands of farmers implementing more efficient processes and management practices over a sustained period of time.
The report ‘Positive Steps Towards a Low Carbon Future for the Irish Dairy Sector’ said it recognises that there is no magic bullet solution, and that ultimately, the widespread adoption of mitigation measures in agriculture will require significant investment and resources in knowledge sharing programmes.
Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture in Ireland today are 3.5pc below 1990 levels and Prof John Fitzgerald, chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council, said the carbon metrics of Irish agriculture and the economic value of dairy to Ireland is unrivalled.
The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre Report in 2010 recognised Ireland’s dairy sector as the most carbon efficient in Europe, but today's report warns that Ireland faces a distinct challenge in meeting its 2020 targets compared to other EU Member States due to the composition of the Irish economy.
The agri-food sector is Ireland’s largest indigenous industry contributing to 7.6pc as a percentage of GVA to the overall economy.
Sustainable intensification means that food production will have to increase in a manner that protects the environment, the report says, but that Ireland will find that particularly challenging as it has limited options available to primary agriculture.