Working hard to help UK beef farmers  achieve net zero

Working hard to help UK beef farmers achieve net zero

British farmers are well positioned to be part of the climate solution and help the UK to become net zero by 2050.

Concern for, and interest in the world’s climate is growing rapidly from all directions and will only become stronger (see box). Through a combination of minimising carbon costs, storing carbon present in the atmosphere through sequestration, utilisation of renewable energy sources and supporting new greener farmer technologies as they emerge, UK farming as a whole can help lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Mole Valley Farmers is working extensively, in partnership with other British agricultural organisations to find practical, financially viable and sustainable routes to net zero for UK dairy, beef and sheep farming.

What can beef farmers do?

By positively engaging with the issues now, beef farmers can prepare their businesses and move closer to net zero UK beef production.
For beef farming, the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions include:

  • Enteric methane
  • Manure management
  • Fertiliser purchase and application
  • Purchased feed, bedding and fuels.

Mole Valley Farmers is working on each area to minimise their output levels as part of our Climate Positive Agriculture initiative.

As examples, we are investigating soil carbon sequestration opportunities to show how farmland potentially has a large positive impact on removal and long-term storage of carbon from the atmosphere. We are also looking at how the combination of animal performance and ration design can lower the greenhouse gas emissions of beef production. This is being assessed alongside predictions for enteric methane and nitrogen excretion produced from different diets.

Thinking about ration makeup

The rations detailed in Table 1 are an example of how the overall feed carbon footprint is affected by the makeup of the ration put in front of the animals.

The choice of raw materials has a dramatic effect on the environmental impact of the two rations and ration two is 37.5% lower in carbon footprint on a kilograms of dry matter basis and 41% lower on a liveweight gain basis. This significant improvement in carbon footprint will help minimise the overall carbon footprint of the farm.

Mole Valley Farmers has calculated the carbon footprint values of all their cattle feeds and some examples are shown in Figure 1. Using this information, alongside other ongoing climate work around enteric methane, protein nutrition, fertilisers, sourcing feed materials, carbon footprint of manufacture and distribution, animal health and welfare and carbon sequestration, our aim is to support UK agriculture and help find the path to net zero.

Environmental footprints will become more and more important on UK farms and will continue to fall under the spotlight. The UK agricultural industry has a unique opportunity to demonstrate how it can be part of the climate solution and help get the UK to net zero by 2050 whilst producing financially viable, fully sustainable, climate friendly, important human food.

Why we need think about the environment

As a result of the UK Government’s legal commitment to net zero by 2050, England has already started the process of moving away from the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in favour of support payments for farming practices that will improve the environment, improve animal health and welfare, reduce carbon emissions and promote the provision of public goods such as better air and water quality. Wales and Scotland are likely to follow.

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is the best estimate of the amount of greenhouse gas emitted as the result of the production of a product or an activity and everything has one. The units are carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) and for a UK beef farm it is the greenhouse gasses emitted as a result of producing beef. Minimising these greenhouse gas outputs and increasing carbon capture across the farm is how UK beef production could get to net zero carbon emissions.

For more information, please contact the Mole Valley Farmers Feed and Nutritionists Line:

South: 01278 444829 | North: 01260 279539