4 methods to chop carbon footprint of suckler beef

4 methods to chop carbon footprint of suckler beef


Embracing a mixture of cow and youngstock administration modifications may assist suckler herds scale back the carbon footprint of each kilogramme of meat produced.

Ballymena farmer Billy O’Kane just lately carried out a carbon audit on his farm (see “Audit highlights carbon accounting problem”).

Chatting with Farmers Weekly, he defined the 4 steps he had taken to enhance his farm’s carbon credentials.

All of the steps have been proven to have a marked impact (see “Influence of instance administration modifications on carbon footprint per kilo of meat”).

See additionally: 5 tips about deciding on and breeding beef replacements

Farm info

Crebilly Farm, Ballymena, County Antrim

  • 202ha (500 acres)
  • 230 suckler cows – both pure or half Stabiliser
  • Outside, spring calving
  • Females stored for replacements or offered for breeding
  • Calve at 24 months
  • Males offered for breeding or completed as bull beef
  • Farmers Weekly Beef Farmer of the Yr 2014

1. Choosing a smaller cow

Mr O’Kane has switched from working a mixture of terminal sire breed cows that required a whole lot of feeding to the smaller Stabiliser breed.

This has diminished common cow dimension from 760-780kg to 620kg.

Fifty cows and their offspring are actually stored on the identical land space that may have stored 40 cows and their offspring.

Weaning and slaughter weights have stayed the identical so meat output has elevated by about 25%.

“It actually helps our carbon footprint per kilo of output. We’re getting the next manufacturing of meat for a similar carbon output we used to have,” Mr O’Kane explains.

2. Cows solely obtain focus of their first winter

Cows are solely fed focus from weaning to turnout of their first winter to assist get them on monitor to calve at 24 months.

This implies they obtain 300kg of focus of their lifetime and are then reliant on home-grown forages.

3. Ending bull beef

All males are completed as bull beef at a mean 14 months outdated and about 389kg deadweight.

Mr O’Kane believes focused focus use within the ending interval can have a helpful impression on the farm’s environmental impression as a result of males are offered extra shortly.

Bulls obtain a complete of 1.5t of focus a head from six to 14 months of age.

Their feed conversion fee can also be extra environment friendly, at 4:1, in contrast with 10:1 in the event that they had been stored till they had been greater than two years outdated.

Mr O’Kane added: “Focusing on the focus strategically to the generations which have one of the best feed conversion fee has a big impression on the carbon output per kilo of meat.”

Not one of the diets contains components from nations practising deforestation, which implies no soya or soya hulls are used. Many of the food plan is made up of by-products, equivalent to maize distillers.

4. Consideration to forage and soils

On the house farm, soils have an natural matter of 15%, nearly thrice the nationwide common. That is helped by rotational grazing, which implies grass development requires much less nitrogen, phosphate and potash.

Fewer inputs imply the monetary and carbon value of rising grass is diminished, Mr O’Kane says.

He has additionally adopted “a complete ban of the plough,” as an alternative utilizing direct-drilling to determine grassland.

This reduces the lack of soil carbon into the ambiance. White clover additionally fixes nitrogen and reduces fertiliser necessities.

Influence of instance administration modifications on carbon footprint per kilo of meat


AHDB Stocktake common


Influence of discount on carbon footprint per kilo of meat


Cow weight




A smaller cow requires much less feed for upkeep and in whole

Age at first calving

36 months

24 months


Fewer unproductive animals carried on farm

Forage fed to cows

Small quantity of focus fed

All forage fed


Much less bought-in focus

Days to complete

24.8 months (females)

23.1 months (steers)

20 months (females)

18 months (steers)


Lowered time on farm requiring much less feed and useful resource use

Days to complete and end system

24.8 months (females)

23.1 months (steers)

20 months (females)

13 months
(as bulls)


Completed sooner as bulls so even much less time on farm

Modelling work carried out by the Stabiliser Cattle Firm and Alltech E-CO2, introduced by Seth Wareing of the Stabiliser Cattle Firm on the BCBC convention.

The work used common figures from AHDB’s Stocktake and in contrast them to focus on figures from the Stabiliser Cattle Firm (SCC) primarily based on round 100 UK Stabiliser herds and 12,000 cows

Audit highlights carbon accounting problem

A farm carbon audit carried out by Billy O’Kane (pictured) highlighted the large disparity between auditing strategies and the necessity to precisely account for methane’s environmental impression.

© Jim Varney

Underneath the GWP100 system, his farm was discovered to be 54% of the way in which to changing into carbon impartial.

Nonetheless, the GWP* system confirmed the farm was 105% carbon impartial, so it was sequestering 5% extra greenhouse gases than it launched.

Mr O’Kane mentioned this was as a result of GWP100 – which has been broadly used to calculate world figures – over-penalises methane by 3.4-4 instances.

GWP* takes under consideration the truth that methane degrades within the ambiance and has a half-life of 10 years, whereas carbon dioxide persists within the ambiance.

Different explanation why much less focus ought to be placed on cows and methane and extra on carbon dioxide included:

  • Carbon dioxide manufacturing has elevated by 200% in 40 years primarily resulting from fossil fuels*
  • Herbivore origin methane has elevated by 6% in 120,000 years**
  • 40% of whole annual methane comes from animals and nature***
  • 60% of methane manufacturing is from human exercise

*US Vitality Institute Administration, Worldwide Vitality Company and oil exploration mechanical engineer Neil Thompson.
**Exploring the affect of historic and historic megaherbivore expirations on the worldwide methane price range, Smith, Hammond et al, 2015, Smithsonian Institute and College of Mexico.
***Environmental Change Institute Literature Evaluate

Billy O’Kane introduced his case examine on the British Cattle Breeders Membership convention (25 January).


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