An innovative collaboration between two of Northern Ireland’s major agri-food businesses, ABP and Dale Farm, is promoting a more sustainable model for dairy beef production in Northern Ireland, with a stated aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The groundbreaking ‘Horizon’ project is the first collaborative scheme of its kind in Northern Ireland that promotes breeding animals more efficiently. The ABP and Dale Farm initiative is designed to make the livestock better at converting feed to protein, so that they can reach their target weight at an earlier stage and therefore reduce their carbon footprint.
The sustainable production programme is based on the results of a multi-year research project from ABP’s Demonstration farms in the UK and Ireland. It involves combining, efficient on-farm practices, prescribed rearing protocols and optimum sire selection for dairy beef animals.
Animals participating in the scheme are expected to be marketed at 20-21 months, some four months below the NI average. This will ensure a significant reduction of emissions per animal resulting in a more carbon efficient and lower cost of production model overall. Research has shown that emission reductions of up x% are possible. Importantly, the scheme will also result in better returns for farmers.
Commenting on the project, George Mullan, Managing Director, ABP Northern Ireland, said: “Horizon is bringing our research work to life and is a great opportunity to significantly reduce emissions through applied data and research. With beef emissions at 40% of the global average, Northern Ireland is one of the most environmentally competitive beef producers globally and this work, which is transferable to other beef production systems, will further improve our global environmental competitiveness and credentials.” We believe that programmes such as Horizon demonstrate the potential for Northern Ireland meet its climate change needs whilst also protecting and supporting the many thousands of jobs and livelihoods in the rural economy,” he added.
Dale Farm members are embracing the partnership with ABP, according to Neville Graham. “They see the potential in adding value to their calves. We are encouraging members to look holistically at the breeding of their herds to identify cows that could breed to beef bulls using superior genetics to get a better return off farm. Calves that are bred from select sires are going to be more efficient and if they are more efficient there is more profit for the farmer and a greater benefit for the environment.”
At its Demonstration Farms in Shropshire and in Co. Carlow, ABP has focused on using a data-driven approach to improving the genetics available to the beef herd, so that beef animals optimise their feed conversion ratio (grow faster) and are ready for slaughter at a younger age, thereby significantly reducing their emissions footprint. Over 4,000 animals have been involved in the study so far which is supported and verified by independent experts and research institutions.
The study has demonstrated that with this data-driven breeding approach a methane emission reduction of up to 40% is achievable and this could have significant positive benefits across UK beef production. The research has shown that animals within this same lower age bracket can further a drop in methane emissions by up to 10%, while farmers can improve returns of up to £100 per head – showing economic and environmental sustainability can travel hand in hand.
ABP’s research in the UK is being supported by Harper Adams University where the company recently sponsored a Professorship is Sustainable Beef Production. Teagasc (the State agency providing research, advisory and education in agriculture) and the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation have collaborated with the research in Ireland.
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13 teenagers representing four schools have been presented with a mini-herd of Angus cross calves to rear as part of their reward for reaching the final stage of the agri-skills development experience with the meat processor, ABP. The winning schools were announced by the well-known farming programme presenter and journalist, Nicola Weir at the first live agri-event at Balmoral Park since November 2020. They are: Cookstown High School, Dalriada School Ballymoney; Friends’ School Lisburn and St Kevin’s College Lisnaskea. The ABP Angus Youth Challenge aims to bridge the skills gap between school and gaining employment in the sector. The pupils range from 14-16 years old and have a common interest in working in the agriculture and the food production sector.
Each team was presented with their finalist trophies and calves at Balmoral Park showgrounds by Managing Director of ABP in Northern Ireland, George Mullan and Charles Smith, General Manager of the Northern Irish Angus Producers Group. Commenting on the occasion, George Mullan said, “Young people have missed out on so much as a result of the pandemic. ABP is committed to offering opportunities for personal and educational development through the ABP Angus Youth Challenge. We have been delighted by the positive impact the competition is having on participants’ work-life and interpersonal skills. This secondary level initiative complements the close links we have with CAFRE, Queen’s University and Harper Adams.”
Special Guest Martin McKendry, CAFRE College Director spoke at the event and said, “CAFRE is delighted to support the ABP Angus Youth Challenge in particular through the involvement of our local Advisers working collaboratively with the participating schools. The project provides an excellent platform for young people to get a real insight into the Northern Ireland agri-food supply chain and the potential careers available. It is also extremely pleasing to see many of the recent participants within the project progressing from school onto courses within CAFRE. Finally I wish the new group of students every success on the project.”
The finalists will now embark on a farm-to-fork skills development programme with ABP. They will rear their calves through to beef and sell them to ABP, sharing in the net reward after sale. They have also been assigned special projects to work on over the next 18 months. These will challenge them to explore innovative and forward-thinking ways to support the sustainable development of beef production in Northern Ireland. Mentoring them throughout the programme will be College of Agriculture Food Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) advisors.
The teams’ performance across all aspects of the final stage will be continually assessed. At the end of their programme, one overall winning team will receive £1,000 cash prize for their school. The ABP Angus Youth Challenge will open again for entries in September 2021. Register interest now at: www.abpangusyouthchallenge.com Find us on Facebook & Instagram #ABPAngusYouth
Two pupils from the Wallace High School, Lisburn have become 2021 Overall Winners of the ABP Angus Youth Challenge and the recipients of a £1,000 cheque for their school. Emma Turner and Samantha Todd’s award is the culmination of a two-year competitive process against teams from three other schools. It has seen them rear a mini-herd of Angus cross calves through to beef, selling them to ABP for a profit and completing detailed farm-to-fork research assignments. 17-year-old Emma and Samantha’s project was on ‘The roles and opportunities for women in agriculture.
Emma Turner is from Lisburn and Samantha Todd lives in Ballynahinch. “The competition has encouraged and inspired us to work in this amazing industry, so much so that we have both begun relief milking at least three times a week and love every minute,” they said. “We have made lifelong friends, created unforgettable memories, learnt and developed new skills and grown in confidence but alongside this we have developed as young women in agriculture.”
The pupils were notified of their success by the Ireland Ladies Hockey Captain, and ABP Angus Youth Ambassador, Katie Mullan, during a special Awards Show commissioned by ABP which premiered on YouTube recently.
The Runner-up in the competition was Fivemiletown College. This team focused on ‘Family farming systems and their benefit to the community’. One aspect of this work was promoting the importance of supporting each-other’s mental health. Team member, Megan Roberts, was recognised by the judges for composing a poem on the topic.
The Outstanding Individual Achievement Award went to Aughnacloy College team member, Molly Bradley, who is now a student at CAFRE Greenmount. Molly impressed the judges from the outset with her passion and enthusiasm for a future career in agriculture.
There are a further five ABP Angus Youth Challenge teams taking part in the finalist programme currently: Ballymena Academy; Castle Tower School, Cross and Passion Ballycastle; Magherafelt High School and Omagh Academy. In addition, four new finalists teams will receive their calves from ABP and the Northern Irish Angus Producer Group at an outdoor event on 11th June at Balmoral Park.
Commenting on the benefits of the competition to young people, Katie Mullan said, “it is a brilliant opportunity to work as a team on something you care about; learn more about yourself and could open doors for you in the future.” ABP is a leading agri-food business throughout the UK and Ireland with beef and lamb processing sites in Newry and Lurgan. It also operates under joint venture with Fane Valley with respect to Linden Foods in Dungannon.
The ABP Angus Youth Challenge will open for entries again in September 2021. Register interest at www.abpangusyouthchallenge.com
11 school teams took part in the 2021 ABP Angus Youth Challenge, the agri-skills development programme for teenagers from the meat processor ABP. The schools represented were: Ballymena Academy; Cookstown High, who entered two teams; Dalriada School; Enniskillen Royal Grammar who also entered two teams; Friends School Lisburn; the Royal School Armagh; St Kevin’s College Lisnakea; St Patrick’s Maghera and Wallace High School.
Congratulating the participants on reaching this year’s semi-final stage, Managing Director of ABP in Northern Ireland, George Mullan said, “ABP would like to congratulate all the semi-finalists for taking part in the competition during an exceptionally challenging time in their school-lives. I would also like to acknowledge the support of the schools and their families in helping them prepare for the judging interviews.”
The teams that will progress through to the finalist programme will be announced in June. For those teams that do make it through, their prize from ABP will be winning five Aberdeen Angus cross calves to rear through to finishing over an 18-month skills development programme. They will benefit financially from the sale of their calves to ABP and one overall winning team at the end of the programme will also receive a £1,000 cash prize for their school.
The ABP Angus Youth Challenge is organised in partnership with the Northern Irish Angus Producer Group. Its General Manager Charles Smith added, “On behalf of the judging panel, I would like to commend all the pupils for their impressive research into Angus beef production and the passion they demonstrated for many aspects of Northern Ireland’s rich farming and agri-food heritage. Notwithstanding the difficult circumstances, ABP and the Angus Producer Group are committed to offering teenagers the opportunity of benefiting from this competition” Helping judge this year’s semi-final were representatives from the Livestock & Meat Commission NI and the CAFRE.
ABP has entered into a new 5-year sponsorship partnership with Air Ambulance NI. In a first-of-its-kind branding agreement for Air Ambulance NI, the ABP logo is now displayed on the charity’s helicopters.
The charity, along with partners at Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, provides the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) for Northern Ireland. The HEMS team delivers world-class pre-hospital care at scene that can be the difference between life and death. Last year it was tasked on 692 occasions, an increase of 18.5% on the previous year. Road traffic, industrial or farm accidents make up the majority of call-outs for the Air Ambulance NI.
Commenting on the announcement, George Mullan, Managing Director of ABP in Northern Ireland said, “Air Ambulance NI provides a vital emergency service particularly to those living in rural and farming communities, where agricultural accidents account for up to 10% of call outs. Northern Ireland is incredibly fortunate to be home to this world class service, which has the ability to make a real difference in critical situations. We are delighted to support the essential work of the air ambulance service.”
Dr Gerard O’Hare, Trustee of Air Ambulance NI said, “We have the pleasure of working with corporate partners across multiple sectors, striving to deliver partnerships that align with CSR needs, resources and business drivers to achieve the £2m we aspire to raise annually. There is usually a farming related incident each week which has a massive effect on the individual, family, community, and society. As a leading business in the agri-food sector, ABP has been supporting Air Ambulance NI since the start of the service in 2017. We are extremely grateful to ABP for its significant contribution to the service Air Ambulance provides to the whole community.”
Claudy farmer George Haslet was a patient of Air Ambulance NI in June 2018 following a slurry accident. George said, “I was mixing slurry when I remembered I had pet lambs in with me so went to get them out. I got the first one and then have no memory. I am confident that without the quick services of the air ambulance and fact that they were able to induce a coma at the scene, I wouldn’t be here today. They saved my life.”
Air Ambulance NI is offering companies bespoke webinars about the service and how to become involved, bookable by phone on 028 9262 2677 or email email@example.com
ABP is pleased to announce that it has signed up to the Business In the Community Ireland (BITCI) Low Carbon Pledge, the first dedicated pledge generated by Irish businesses to set industry standards on sustainability and reduce carbon emissions. ABP has been committed to the Science Based Targets initiative since 2019 where its greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets have been approved by the Science Based Targets initiative and are consistent with levels required to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The company is also a nominated sector leader of a similar carbon reduction scheme with Business in the Community in Northern Ireland.
As part of its commitment to reduce its carbon emissions, ABP has been conducting a multi-year study with Teagasc and the ICBF at its Demonstration Farm in Carlow. The research has focused on using a data-driven approach to improving the genetics available to the dairy beef herd, so that beef animals optimise their feed conversion ratio, grow faster and are ready for slaughter at a younger age, thereby significantly reducing their emissions footprint. The study has demonstrated that a methane emission reduction of up to 40% is achievable and this could have significant positive benefits across Irish beef production. The results also highlight the potential for improved yields of up to €200 on animal carcass values for beef farmers. Over 4,000 animals have been involved in the study to date with results fed into the ICBF data base.
Dean Holroyd, Technical and Sustainability Director, ABP Food Group said: “ABP is pleased to be among 50 Irish businesses that have signed up to the Low Carbon Pledge movement. For over six years we have been working with Teagasc and the ICBF to make beef productions more sustainable and the results to date demonstrate what can be achieved on a typical farm as well as highlighting the possibilities for the beef production sector.”
ABP’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets have been validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), demonstrating the company’s commitment to aligning its sustainability strategy to the global climate change goals as set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The targets address GHG emissions across ABP’s business (scope 1 & 2 emissions) and its supply chain (scope 3 emissions).
Originally launched in 2018, the Low Carbon Pledge has now evolved and calls on all Irish businesses to work towards setting science-based emission reduction targets by 2024. The Pledge demonstrates meaningful business commitment to reducing carbon emissions and acts as a catalyst for wider initiatives and actions. The Pledge is led by the Low Carbon Sub-group of the BITCI Leaders’ Group on Sustainability, and endorsed by the Irish Government.
Beef produced on farms across the British Isles is widely recognised and being amongst the most sustainable in the world. This is evidenced by the fact that its carbon footprint of approximately half of the global average. Nonetheless, results of a multi-year study involving over 4,000 animals at ABP’s Demonstration Farms in Shropshire and in Ireland have shown that the level of methane emissions could be reduced by up to 40% against ABP’s current average, when a more data-driven approach is applied across the supply chain.
The findings were presented by ABP at this year’s City Food Lecture. The study shows that by using a data-driven approach to selective breeding, it is possible to encourage the siring of beef animals that are more efficient at converting feed to protein, reaching their target weight earlier and thereby significantly reducing their environmental footprint.
In addition to the environmental benefits, farmers could improve their economic returns by up to £100 per head – demonstrating that economic and environmental sustainability can travel hand in hand.
Dean Holroyd, ABP’s Technical and Sustainability Director, said: “The purpose of this work is to demonstrate what can be achieved on a typical farm. By harnessing data and information across the entire supply chain from conception to plate this research shows we can further improve economic and environmental performance of UK beef farmers in a global marketplace while also satisfying changing consumer desires for more sustainable diets.”
ABP is working with partners including Icelandic Research Institute Matís and UK data specialist Agrimetrics to explore the feasibility of going beyond existing DNA traceability systems to make it faster and easier to verify the origins of meat – and make that information available at the point of purchase and consumption. Called BLINK, the project forms part of ABP’s wider involvement with EIT Food, a pan-European consortium that is finding solutions to today’s most pressing food challenges.
Commenting on the collaborative partnership, James Draper, ABP UK, said, “We are delighted to be part of an international collaboration that is playing its part in improving the sustainability of future food production and consumption. The new concept looks to take advantage of recent advancements in DNA profiling and looks to combine with other digital data sources – to provide farm to fork traceability at the point of purchase and consumption.’
Work on the project started in early 2020 and the project will now be evaluated to establish how realistic and feasible providing farm to fork traceability at the point of purchase is given current technology within the required commercial constraints.