Animal programs

Cork producers say culling of animals is inevitable under climate plan

The farm deal agreed between Environment Minister Eamon Ryan and Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue appears to give farmers no choice but to cull animals if greenhouse gas emission reduction targets greenhouse effect must be achieved, an award-winning medium – Fermier de Liège has warned.

Reverend Crowley, who won a Bord Bia Dairy Origin Green Farmer Award in 2018, said he was ’emptied’ when he saw the details of the proposed deal agreed to by Minister Ryan and Minister McConalogue, which aims to achieve a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by 2030.

“From what I can gather there are proposals to encourage afforestation and rewetting of peat land and the installation of solar panels on agricultural land, but none of the credits for any of these go to the farmer – it seems the only option for the farmer to reduce his emissions is to slaughter his herd,” he said.

Mr Crowley said he was still optimistic that a compromise was entirely achievable; one that would bridge the gap between Minister Ryan, who called for a 30% reduction, and Minister McConalogue, who defended the current 22% target.

And he suggested that farmers receive subsidies to install solar panels on their sheds and wind turbines on their land to feed the electricity grid. Credits could be given to them for these measures, as well as for planting trees to sequester CO2, which would help counter greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr Crowley, who treats 160 Friesians at his 180-acre farm in Hornhill, Lissarda, in the middle of Cork, was equally optimistic that farmers could reduce methane and ammonia emissions from their farms without farmers having to to slaughter their dairy and beef herds. animals.

He cited his own experience, which saw him reduce his carbon footprint from 1.26kg per kg of milk solids in 2015 to 0.83kg per kg of milk solids last year, according to his latest Audit Edge. Bia, and he said he believes other farmers have also focused on reducing their carbon footprint.

“No one in agriculture denies climate change, every farmer I meet is like me, we all know our responsibilities in trying to reduce our carbon footprint; every meeting we attend, every post we take, it’s there, you’d want to live under a stone not to recognize it,” he said.

“And comrades are up for the challenge, but the whole debate has gone against us at the moment, and we feel like we’re almost reviled even though if you look at the numbers you can see we’re making progress and that there should be options available to us other than culling the number of herds.

According to the EPA report released last month, agriculture accounted for 37.5% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 – well ahead of transport at 17.7%, energy industries at 16 .7%, residential at 11.4% and industrial combustion at 7.5%. hundred.

And the EPA further reported that in agriculture last year, greenhouse gas emissions increased by 3% – capping a 19.3% increase since 2011 – with fertilizer use in increase of 5.2%, the number of dairy cows increasing by 2.8% and milk production increasing by 5.5 percent.

In agriculture, around 60% of emissions are caused by enteric fermentation – or the release of methane from ruminants such as cows and sheep – while agricultural soils, including the use of synthetic fertilizers, accounted for 21.78% and manure management 11.72. percent.

But Mr Crowley pointed to his own experience and how, using both an aeromix aeration system on his slurry from Galway company Easyfix as well as Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) technology – which can reduce ammonia emissions by up to 60 percent – it reduces its carbon footprint.

Using the Aeromix aeration system gives a better mix of nutrients in the slurry and has reduced the need for synthetic fertilizer by around 25%, while the use of LESS technology means the slurry enters the slurry faster. the ground so that the cattle can be put out to grass. earlier. It also gives better grass fields.

Mr Crowley presented all of this as evidence of how agriculture is adapting to the challenges posed by climate change, and he said he could see further progress in the years to come, especially when this would solve the problem of enteric fermentation, which accounts for more than 60 percent of emissions.

“It comes down to how do you stop animals from spitting methane, but the solution to that is in the animal feed and the additives you put in and there are great strides being made by Teagasc and others in the development of additives from algae and enzymes that will reduce these emissions,” he said.

Mr Crowley said if the national herd, which currently stands at 7.3 million cattle, is to be slaughtered, it should be done on a voluntary basis rather than a mandatory one.

He believes the Food Vision Dairy Group’s proposal to offer farmers €5,000 for each slaughtered animal has merit.

He said the proposal, revealed in last week’s Farmers Journal, should prove an attractive option for older farmers, who may wish to exit the industry even though it would have little appeal. for him or for his son, Gavin (24), who is the fifth generation of the Crowley family to farm in Hornhill.

“I’m 61 and viable as it is, but if I reduced my herd by 20-30% we would only be on the edge of viability unless there was some compensation, but you won’t see any major increase in animal numbers from now on because most of the fellows have gotten to where they want to be,” Crowley said.

“In fact, you are likely to see declining numbers due to the aging profile of farmers, and this is where this payment of €5,000 per animal could prove very attractive for older people who want to get out of farming. – there is a certain proportion of farmers of a certain age who would accept this.

“Farming doesn’t appeal to young people – it’s that simple, which is sad, and as the age profile increases, the inevitable will happen and the number of farmers will start to decline, so you’re likely to get reductions in the national herd anyway – we’ve probably seen herd numbers peak.

“You have to get young people into farming, and they will be better educated – Gavin has a lot more courses than I do, but I imagine his generation will take the emissions challenge and take it to a new level – they will see solutions as we see a problem.