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Farmers should think about breeding horses in scheme to cut emissions – minister

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Junior agriculture minister Pippa Hackett at the Horse Sport Ireland trade stand during the Dublin Horse Show at the RDS in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Junior agriculture minister Pippa Hackett at the Horse Sport Ireland trade stand during the Dublin Horse Show at the RDS in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Junior agriculture minister Pippa Hackett. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Junior agriculture minister Pippa Hackett. Photo: Gerry Mooney

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Junior agriculture minister Pippa Hackett at the Horse Sport Ireland trade stand during the Dublin Horse Show at the RDS in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Livestock farmers should consider breeding and rearing horses and could be incentivised to do so as part of efforts to cut Ireland’s agriculture emissions by 25pc by the end of the decade, a Green Party minister has said.

Junior agriculture minister Pippa Hackett said she wants to examine ways to support the horse breeding sector and potentially incentivising livestock farmers to rear horses which produce far less methane than cows or sheep.

“Horses can be reared in very environmentally, biodiversity friendly ways as well,” the Minister of State for Biodiversity and Green Party senator told the Irish Independent.

"They’re not ruminants and they can add value, and it is maybe something that some livestock farmers could consider. 

“I think there is scope for it.

"Ireland is synonymous with the horse and it’s certainly something we do need to support,” she said. 

Ms Hackett, who has bred racehorses with her husband Mark, said moves to encourage livestock farmers to take up equine farming would be a “small part” of Irish agriculture’s move to diversify to more environmentally friendly practices.

It comes after the Coalition last month agreed to a target of reducing the sector’s emissions by 25pc by 2030 following months of negotiations on the Government’s plan to address the climate crisis. 

Ms Hackett was speaking at the launch of Horse Sport Ireland’s (HSI) Business of Breeding report in Dublin yesterday.

“A lot of breeders already have farms, a lot have a few mares on the side,” she said.

“Certainly, just from the conversation today I think there is scope there so it’s something I would be interested in to see how we could support the sector.”

She said she was “not necessarily” suggesting that farmers reduce their cattle herds “but maybe getting a couple of horses on the side always helps a bit on the diversification and diverse income streams”.

Ms Hackett said the Business of Breeding report highlighted the potential of the horse sport sector, which she described as lucrative given that it is already worth more than €800m a year.

The report found that nearly half of breeders have another farming enterprise while more than four out of 10 breeders have less than 10 horses. 

“More than 50pc of sport horse breeders are small, they only own a couple of horses,” she said. 

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Junior agriculture minister Pippa Hackett. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Junior agriculture minister Pippa Hackett. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Junior agriculture minister Pippa Hackett. Photo: Gerry Mooney

“Many of them aren’t already associated with farms. Some are, some aren’t.

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“So the report really gives a good picture and impression of the situation on the ground and the potential in it and I suppose the aspirations of those breeders to grow and increase.”

The report said 78pc of breeders have taken at least one environmental measure.

The global equine population emits approximately 0.6pc of global emissions whereas it is estimated that cows and other farm animals represent 14.5pc of human-induced emissions.

Beef farming and milk production account for the majority of emissions, contributing 41pc and 20pc respectively.

The report also outlines plans for €342m of investment by breeders into the sector over the next three years.

It comes after Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue recently announced equine farming would
become eligible for Government grant funding under the Targeted Agriculture Modernisation Schemes as part of the next Common Agriculture Policy regime starting in 2023.

It follows extensive lobbying by Horse Sport Ireland, which has campaigned for money to help those involved in equine farming to upgrade their facilities including stabling, arenas, horse fencing, out-wintering paddocks and horse handling facilities.



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