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Using the Farmer Feedback Report for decision making

Using the Farmer Feedback Report for decision making

As farmers, you are beginning on the journey towards reducing gaseous emissions. It is important that you know where you are starting from with regards your farm’s carbon emissions. It’s the old adage – you can’t change what you don’t measure. In a previous article we outlined how your farm’s carbon footprint is calculated and the importance of providing accurate information in the Sustainability Survey, conducted as part of the audit process.

In this article, Bord Bia has collaborated with Teagasc to examine the Farmer Feedback Report of two Signpost Farms, dairy farmers John and Brendan Walsh, and beef farmer Jarlath Ruane.

What is the Farmer Feedback Report?

After each Bord Bia audit, all certified dairy and beef farmers receive a Farmer Feedback Report from Bord Bia with their farm’s carbon footprint as well as an assessment of farm productivity, nutrient management, grassland management, and farm safety.

The report also includes the percentage share of carbon emissions on the farm by source:

  • animal digestion
  • manure
  • fertiliser
  • forage/feed production
  • other (e.g. transport, fuel, etc.)

The report provides advice on how to mitigate against these emissions and improve production efficiencies.

Signpost Farms

Father and son team, John and Brendan, are milking 132 cows, achieving milk solids per cow of 539kg.  John had his last audit in September 2020: “We take care in completing the Sustainability Report [before the audit] because we need to ensure that we have an accurate figure for the carbon footprint to benchmark progress year-on-year and against other farmers.”

In John’s case, the carbon footprint was 1.10kg CO2 equivalent per kg of fat and protein corrected milk. This is 3% lower than it was in 2019 and 4.5% lower than dairy farms of a similar scale.

Thirty nine percent of the emissions on the farm are from animal digestion, which is the same as the previous audit. The average for dairy farms of a similar scale is 42%. Fertiliser use contributes to 18% of emissions, compared to 16% for the average dairy farms of similar scale.

John met with his adviser Kevin Barron and programme adviser Grainne Hurley and decided on a plan of action to reduce emissions further on the farm.

Some of the actions that are currently being taken include:

  • White clover has been incorporated into the swards on the milking block. They currently have five paddocks that have received no chemical nitrogen since May.
  • All slurry is spread using Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS). The farm has invested in a dribble bar.
  • Protected urea fertiliser is being used on the farm.
  • Red clover has been sown on the outside blocks for silage.
Beef farmer

Jarlath Ruane runs a dairy calf-to-beef enterprise near Claremorris, Co Mayo. Jarlath’s footprint was 8.11kg CO2 equivalents per kilogram of beef liveweight in 2020. This had not changed since 2018, but is almost 12% lower than the average for dairy calf-to-beef farms. As with John and Brendan Walsh, Jarlath takes great care in completing the sustainability survey to ensure that he gets an accurate carbon footprint.

Forty eight percent of Jarlath’s emissions come from animal digestion (or methane) with 27% coming from manure, 7% from fertiliser, 3% from forage and feed and 15% coming from other activities including transport.

The key actions that Jarlath is taking to reduce his carbon footprint include:

  • Incorporating clover into new reseeds to reduce chemical N usage.
  • Increasing usage of protected urea on-farm, replacing CAN-based products.
  • Concentrating on calf health and grassland management to increase carcase weight of each animal.
  • Putting plans in place to convert to LESS.
  • Maximising silage quality in order to reduce meal requirements of young cattle, stores and finishing cattle.
How to access your report

The feedback report is posted to the farmer within approximately one week of certification of the Bord Bia audit.  It can also be accessed from farm.bordbia.ie using your herd number and PIN, which was received at your most recent audit. There is a ‘forget PIN’ option, which texts your PIN to the mobile number you have provided to Bord Bia. For further queries contact the Bord Bia Helpdesk on 01 5240410.