ABP Food Group has announced that it has joined the Harper Adams School of Sustainable Food and Farming Delivery Partner Network. The school is at the forefront of the development of sustainable farming methods and also in exploring methods to help British farmers with their pathway to achieving net zero.
The partnership is in addition to ABP’s direct association with Harper Adams University, where the company sponsors the Professorship in Sustainable Beef and Lamb production. The post, which is held by Professor Jude Capper, is committed to leading the development of postgraduate research into sustainable meat production systems.
Professor Capper’s team is currently working with ABP’s research teams on the company’s Demonstration farm in Shropshire. The work initially focused on using a data-driven approach to improving the genetics available to the beef herd, so that beef animals grow faster by optimising their feed conversion ratio; and are therefore ready for slaughter at a younger age. The ultimate aim is to support the industry’s ambition of reducing emissions and demonstrate the industry’s climate credentials.
ABP is also working with 350 supplying farms to understand missions across a range of production systems through an innovative sustainability programme. Prism2030 will not only help farmers baseline their carbon footprint but also help to identify productivity improvements but also understand the carbon cycle on their own farm with professional tailored support from Harper Adams.
Commenting on the partnership, Phil Hambling, UK Head of CSR for ABP said: “We are committed to playing our part in helping our farmers become global leaders in the production of sustainable beef and lamb. Our existing projects with Harper Adams University are helping us with evidence to dispel some of the myths about beef and lamb’s carbon footprint but also showing how we can improve productivity and benefit farm business resilience. Our partnership approach with farmers and Harper will ensure that we can build on our early progress, demonstrate how we can continuously improve and celebrate the positive story that British agriculture has to offer.
ABP’s PRISM 2030 (Programme for the Improvement in Sustainability of (red) Meat) initiative brought beef and lamb farmers and technical experts together, for a grazing and knowledge transfer event on a suckler beef farm in Cheshire, offering a first look at initial findings of the research which aims to help red meat producers reduce their carbon footprint.
Farmer, Ian Norbury, hosted the gathering on his farm near Mobberley, to explain what business changes he has implemented since joining PRISM 2030.
Ian manages a herd of 120 pedigree Angus cows, selling breeding bulls and finishing heifers and steers for ABP. He joined PRISM 2030 in autumn 2022 having already used the carbon calculator, Agrecalc, to measure his farm’s GHG emissions back in 2020. He then identified ways to reduce emissions, primarily planting herbal leys and rotationally grazing cattle, eliminating fertiliser requirement, and improving daily liveweight gains. He now outwinters finishing cattle on bale grazing, only housing calving cows during late winter, minimising straw use and keeping nitrogen on the grassland.
Many of the forage bales made on the farm are tight baled and so require no wrap, eliminating plastic waste, reducing input costs, and minimising labour demands during winter. Regular weighing of cattle means he can select smaller heifers for breeding and finish larger framed heifers, monitoring growth rates and feeding accordingly. Ian has reduced mature cow weight from 780kg to 650kg over the past four years, reducing the overall carbon footprint of each cow.
PRISM 2030 offered Ian the opportunity he sought, to repeat his carbon calculations with Agrecalc, and presented him with advice from The Andersons Centre, Harper Adams University and other farmers involved.
During the morning, farmers from up to several hours away, were joined by ABP’s PRISM 2030 partners of farm business consultants The Andersons Centre (Andersons), Professor Jude Capper of Harper Adams University and Agrecalc.
Professor Capper told farmers that the findings from the project so far are proving helpful in illustrating just how much those involved are achieving, by monitoring and reducing their farm carbon emissions, with the support of ABP:
“It’s really important for our industry - which faces arguably more than its fair share of criticism - to be armed with much more accurate, representative data which we can point to,” explained Professor Capper.
“We already know some of the broad factors which effects the carbon footprint of a farm but what we don’t is how that plays out on-farm. Often, we see two similar farms but with very different carbon footprints. We also see seemingly high-performing farms, which in theory ought to have a lower carbon footprint, with higher ones than lesser-performing farms. This project will help us to understand why.”
Moving around different aspects of the farm, The Andersons Centre and Agrecalc explained their role in assessing farm carbon emissions and offering recommendations, and Ian gave insight into his handling system investment, planting and management of GS4 leys and led a tour of the bale grazing set-up, ready for cattle to turn out into during November.
Through PRISM 2030, ABP hosts discussion groups, gives advice and offers a Sustainability Grant, to support investment with improvements such as herbal ley mixtures, weigh-scales and handling systems.
Katie Thorley, ABP’s Agri Sustainability Manager says this research project is vital for supporting farmers and communicating UK agriculture’s strong sustainability position.
“Investing in PRISM is partly about telling the story of British farming,” she said. “There is no doubt in my mind that many people have negative connotations around the impacts of farming, and we must tell the real story and demonstrate all that is good about our sector.”
“Every farm will be re-tested in two years’ time, and we very much look forward to watching PRISM 2030 progress and finding out what the next chapters reveal.”
ABP is hosting a group of Northern Irish pupils and their teachers on a European farm to fork study tour in conjunction with Certified Irish Angus Producer Group to broaden their understanding of its Europe-wide business operations. The tour commences today (28th June) at Lismullin Cookery School in Navan and continues in Belgium to include visits to an Angus farm in Bruges, the European Parliament and a meeting with the NI Executive Office in Brussels.
The group who are from Down High School Downpatrick; Friends School Lisburn; St Killian’s College in Co. Antrim and St. Louis Grammar School Ballymena were welcomed in Navan by ABP Ireland representatives and briefed about its European operations. They received a master-butcher demonstration by the ABP-owned Kettyle Irish Foods and took part in a practical session about the nutritional values of beef before getting to cook their own Angus steaks for themselves and their teachers.
The pupils are all finalists in the ABP Angus Youth Challenge, an agri-skills based competition for 14-15 year olds. The programme is modelled on the popular Certified Irish Angus Schools Competition which ABP co-sponsors in the Republic of Ireland and has been adapted for Northern Ireland.
Welcoming the teenagers and their teachers Kristina Campion, Brand Manager with ABP Ireland said, “The tour is a fantastic way for young people to gain an insight into opportunities and roles that exist across our supply chain. The experience they gain as finalists helps their learning and understanding of agrifood production and the beef industry in general.”
Charles Smith of the Certified Irish Angus Producer Group added, “there’s a real excitement in schools and in families about taking part in the ABP Angus Youth Challenge study tour. This trip along with the many skills and benefits of taking part helps to broaden their horizons and develop an understanding of the business connections involved in ABP’s operations from farm to fork.
The Northern Ireland (NI) Carbon Steering Group is a pioneering alliance set up to represent farmers and the agri-food industry, and progress with the carbon element of the sustainability agenda. The collaboration has been built on the recognition that an industry wide co-ordinated approach is the most effective way to ensure the industry is heard and that the best solutions are achieved for everyone in NI.
Agriculture has a key part to play in NI reaching net zero carbon emissions and the group has been working together, moulding an approach that will be farmer friendly and provide the basis for measuring and managing carbon emissions. Legal obligations and targets have been set and the group aims to deliver opportunities that will advance local agriculture sustainably.
Commenting, George Mullan, member of the Carbon Steering Group and Chair of NIFDA, said, “Under the NI Climate Change Act 2022, targets have been set which we are required to meet. To align with this, DAERA will publish its first Climate Action Plan in December 2023 requiring significant reduction in carbon emissions. Therefore, we have come together to act on behalf of our farmers and agri-food industry to ensure we achieve consistency in the direction of travel.
“Working across farmers, processors, industry bodies, government departments and research organisations, we want to ensure that appropriate solutions are provided to measure carbon emissions and identify innovative ways to reduce emissions. As a group, we’ve been able to lead from the front to develop a market strategy and support farmers to intercept potential livestock reductions.
“Reducing carbon emissions is becoming a requirement for our customers, not only in the UK, but also in export markets. It has presented us with an opportunity to find a workable system that can deliver the information required and enable the NI agri-food sector to remain competitive.”
The NI Carbon Steering Group is working in partnership with DAERA to create a programme which will help all farm businesses understand where they are on this carbon journey. As part of this and to inform the work programme with DAERA, we intend to test the concept of whole farm data collection with 100 farms in the next few weeks. Information required to test this concept will be collected following a NI Beef and Lamb Farm Quality Assurance Scheme (FQAS) inspection and during the same farm visit.
David Brown, Chair of the NI Carbon Steering Group, said “We need to ensure that we develop a programme with the farmer in mind at all times. It needs to be workable for them, ensuring an accurate and efficient process that causes minimal disruption to the farm business. The delivery of information is a key element to ensure its suitable for all parties and supports appropriate carbon reduction strategies while protecting farmers’ data.”
The Carbon Steering group added, “Tackling climate change and reducing emissions is now a key part of doing business with retailers and banks that are taking carbon emissions and environmental factors into consideration. All parts of the food chain are required to act including retailers, processors and farmers. Farmers have already done great work to reduce emissions on farm, and this data collection exercise will enable them to build upon that. We’re all on this journey towards net zero and farmers are committed to reducing carbon emissions while feeding a growing population with quality food produced to the highest standards.”
The NI Carbon Steering Group includes representatives from the Livestock and Meat Commission, Ulster Farmers’ Union, Dairy Council for Northern Ireland, NI Meat Exporters Association, NI Food and Drink Association, NI Agricultural Producers’ Association, NI Grain Trade Association, NI Pork and Bacon Forum, NI Poultry Federation, and Moy Park.
Four students from Holy Rosary College, Mountbellew were announced as the overall winners of the 2023 ABP sponsored Certified Irish Angus School’s Competition at an awards ceremony in Croke Park. Students, Peter O’Neill, Amy Higgins, Oisín Colleran and Cormac Delaney secured the win after impressing the judges with their approach to the prestigious cattle-rearing competition, now celebrating its ninth year.
The winning group from County Galway undertook a research project focussed on “Improving Quality of Beef for Consumers”. They conducted a survey which gave the students an in-depth knowledge of the beef purchasing habits of the consumer. The students' discovered what consumers prioritise when they buy Certified Irish Angus beef, and their research covered an impressive range of topics from animal husbandry to grassland management. To engage their classmates, the group shared their findings and invited guest speakers' including local dairy farmer, Henry Walsh, and a member of the Galway Grasslands Association, Keith Fahy to their agricultural science class.
Announcing the winners, General Manager of Certified Irish Angus, Charles Smith said; “Holy Rosary College are very deserving winners of this years competition. Driven by their deep-rooted interest of agriculture and food production, the students successfully communicated the benefits of good farming practices with their classmates and local community. They helped their community to understand the huge farming effort that results in producing the best quality food. The growth of the competition entries has been exceptional, we have increased our exhibiting numbers because of standard met by the enthusiastic TY students.”
ABP Angus Youth tune in to radio presenters' top tips.
Pupils from Down High School Downpatrick, Friends’ School Lisburn; St. Killian’s College Carnlough and St. Louis Grammar Ballymena went behind the scenes of Northern Ireland’s leading commercial radio broadcaster to learn first-hand how to communicate like a professional. The pupils are all participants in the ABP Angus Youth Challenge, a competitive agri-skills development programme for Yr. 11’s delivered by the beef & lamb processor ABP in conjunction with Certified Irish Angus.
Their visit to the home of Cool FM; Downtown Radio & Downtown Country is part of their prize for reaching the final stage in the ABP Angus Youth Challenge. As part of this year-long finalist programme, the teams representing the four schools have to work on projects that promote and enhance sustainable production of Angus beef in Northern Ireland as well as rear a mini-herd of Angus cross calves through to beef.
Their projects range from the Use of Science to Capture Carbon; Healthy Agriculture; Succession Planning; and Efficiency-Boosting Technology for Beef Production. The pupils worked with presenters at Cool FM and Downtown to create a compelling storyline for their projects and explored the importance of understanding audience. They also heard top tips from the radio station’s own most successful social media influencers. The day culminated in them recording a radio advert and video reel to help promote their project themes.
Commenting on the workshop, Liam McCarthy of ABP said, “This media workshop helps equip our ABP Angus Youth participants with the skills to act as young ambassadors for our industry and to support them in making use of social media effectively and responsibly.”
The ABP Angus Youth Challenge opens for entries annually each September. To register or plan an entry interested teachers, guardians and club leaders should visit https://abpangusyouthchallenge.com/teachers
ABP Ireland has launched a new soil sampling service, which is open to all of its farmer suppliers. From the beginning of 2023, soil sampling is now compulsory for farms with a grassland stocking rate above 130kg nitrogen per hectare and all arable farms.
This innovative new programme is being managed as part of ABP’s Advantage Beef Programme but is open to both members and non-members of the programme.
Soil core samplers are now available for our farmer suppliers to borrow from ABP’s plants across the country.
Research from ABP’s Demonstration Farm in Clonegal, Co. Carlow has shown the benefits of soil sampling in optimising soil fertility and soil health. Soil samples provide valuable information on what fields require lime and what fields require additional phosphorus and potassium fertiliser.
Amie Coonan, Advantage Beef Team Leader, said “Now is the time to consider soil sampling your farm. The ideal time to soil sample is from October to February, and samples should be taken three months after the last application of slurry, chemical phosphorus or potassium.
The information obtained from a soil analysis can help farmers to lower their fertiliser inputs, target slurry at the fields which need it most, and increase grass growth, which will improve the carbon sequestration of your soil.
Recent Teagasc figures indicate that only 16% of soils are at the optimum pH, phosphorus and potassium levels. Therefore, it is very important to start by taking soil samples of your farm, to baseline your farm and put a plan in place. If you don’t measure, you can’t manage.”
ABP’s Advantage Beef Programme farm liaison officers are available to offer specialised fertiliser and lime advice to users of the new service, based on a farmers’ soil-sample results.
ABP has also provided a number of helpful tips on how to take an accurate soil sample:
Aim to take one sample for every 5-10 acres of the farm. The maximum area for a soil sample should be no greater than 20 acres.
Fields and paddocks that have received the same treatment should be kept together for sampling.
Each sample should be taken from an area that has the same slurry/fertiliser applications; has been reseeded at same time; has received lime at same time; and was cut for silage together.
The sample should be taken from the field or paddock by walking the area in a ‘W’ shape across a field. This ensures a representative sample is taken.
Avoid sampling around gates, water troughs, machinery lines, ditches or where a trough was placed in the field, as these areas could distort the sample.
Each sample should be a full box of the soil corer or 20 cores. Ensure the sampler is taking full 10cm cores to ensure an accurate analysis is achieved.
If the ground is too wet, the soil sampler may not take full samples. In this case, farmers should wait for ground to dry out before sampling.
A freezer bag can be used to store the collected soil samples. Each bag should be labelled with the field name and the name of the farmer in permanent marker.
Farmer suppliers that are interested in taking part in the programme should contact their local ABP site.
It was great to return to the Tullamore Show this year. ABP Ireland had a stand at the event and welcomed visitors from across the country, including Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, T.D.
At the stand we showcased our Advantage Beef Programme, as well as our Graduate Programme to visitors. The ABP Stand also featured a hospitality area for farmers and a livestock display.
Thank you to everyone who visited our stand, it was a great event.