2013-08-14  facebooktwitterrss
Research to Lower Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions from Northern Ireland Beef

Recently, the AFBI beef research programme, which is funded by DARD, AgriSearch, DEFRA and the devolved administrations, has measured methane emissions from cattle under a range of production systems.

In these studies to address the major uncertainties associated with Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, particularly from hill systems, we have shown that differences in methane emissions are largely related to forage intakes by the animals.

Measuring methane emissions from beef cattle grazing upland pasture

Measuring methane emissions from beef cattle grazing upland pasture

Essentially, the higher the intake of the animal, the greater is the amount of rumen digestion and therefore the greater is the methane emission. However, the level of performance relative to methane emission needs also to be considered. For example, an animal consuming less feed per day will have a lower daily methane emission, but may take a greater number of days to reach slaughter, thus generating higher GHG emissions per kg of beef produced.

Research findings to date have not indicated breed differences, but beef produced from the suckler herd has higher GHG emissions relative to beef produced from the dairy herd (18.3 and 9.7 per kg CO2 per kg beef). This is mainly a consequence of the methane emissions associated with maintaining the suckler cow.

However, at an individual farm level, there are a number of ways in which a farmer can try to reduce their GHG emissions. These include: calving replacement heifers at 24 months; ensuring a tight calving interval; selecting high genetic merit animals; and ensuring good grassland management etc.

More information on GHG emissions will be available at the forth coming Sustainable Farming in the LFAs events at Greenmount Hill Farm and Russell Scott’s Farm on the 24th and 26th September respectively.


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