ABP has announced the launch of a new integrated sustainable beef production scheme for farmers, called Advantage Beef Programme . The programme is open to dairy, beef and suckler farmers and will guarantee a sustainability bonus for animals reared to agreed protocols and bred to an approved minimum genetic merit standard by 2023.
The scheme is underpinned by leading genetic research, which has been undertaken in collaboration with the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation and Teagasc at ABP’s Demonstration Farm in Carlow. This research has focused on combining efficient on-farm practices, prescribed rearing protocols and optimum sire selection for beef animals and has also incorporated the principles of ABP’s Blade Farming model.
Farmers will also be free to purchase feed from a supplier that suits them best.
Commenting at the launch, Kevin Cahill, Managing Director, ABP Ireland said: “We are delighted to launch this inclusive integrated beef programmme which will be open to beef, dairy and suckler farmers. Our focus is on delivering a model which will help farmers to improve their on-farm efficiencies whilst also delivering more sustainable outcome.”
Animals participating in the programme are expected to be marketed at 18-28 months, depending on the farming system, with an average age of 24 months some 3 months below the national average. This will ensure a significant reduction of emissions per animal, resulting in a more carbon efficient and lower cost of production model overall. Importantly, the scheme will also result in better returns for farmers.
ABP’s research has involved over 4,000 animals since 2014 and has demonstrated that with a data-driven select breeding approach, significant methane emission reductions are achievable. The research is being supported by Teagasc, and the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation has also found that retruns to farmers could increase by up to €200. Similar research work has also been undertaken by ABP in the UK in collaboration with Harper Adams University.
Pupils from Banbridge Academy; Cookstown High; Newtownhamilton College and St. Catherine’s College, Armagh have received an early Christmas present of a mini-herd of Angus cross calves courtesy of ABP and the Northern Irish Angus Producer Group. Each school team will now have to rear the calves through to beef as part of becoming finalists in the ABP Angus Youth Challenge.
This year-long experience as finalists will see them develop relevant skills for working in agri-food. The teenagers, who are all 14-15 years old, will also have to work on special projects relating to the local beef sector that will enhance their studies across a range of GCSE subjects. These projects will challenge them to explore forward-thinking ways to support sustainable beef production in Northern Ireland. College of Agriculture Food Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) advisors will mentor the teams during the coming year.
The team at Banbridge Academy has been given the theme of ‘Positioning Northern Ireland as a Global Leader in Sustainable Beef Production.’ Cookstown High School, who already have a team taking part in the finalist programme have been asked to research the ‘Features of the Northern Ireland Beef Farmer of the Future’ including what helps develop resilience.
Meanwhile Newtownhamilton College have been asked to look at younger consumers and the factors that influence their choices in beef consumption. The pupils from St Catherine’s College will be looking at the connectivity between animals, people, plants and the environment in a project entitled ‘One Health.’
To reach the final four, the pupils had to compete against 18 other teams which included taking part in an exhibition, judged by an independent panel of industry experts.
Their performance across all aspects of the final stage will be continually assessed. At the end of the programme, one overall winning team will receive £1,000 cash prize for their school. They now join four other teams who are currently taking part in the finalist programme – Cookstown High School, Dalriada School in Ballymoney; Friends’ Lisburn and St. Kevin’s College, Lisnaskea.
ABP has been awarded Platinum for the second year running in the Northern Ireland Environmental Benchmarking Survey which is organised by the responsible business network Business in the Community.
The NI Environmental Benchmarking Survey is an annual event that scores organisations on the measures they take to improve their environmental impacts. 113 organisations from a range of different sectors measured and reported their environmental impacts this year with 33 achieving Platinum.
The survey is an important comparison tool and a way for organisations to identify areas where they can improve their environmental impacts, as well as be recognised for their efforts to prioritise sustainability.
George Mullan, Managing Director of ABP Northern Ireland said, “as a Business in the Community Climate Action Champion we are delighted to be recognised for our organisational commitment to sustainability. ABP’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets have been validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). These targets address emissions within our business and across our supply chain. We are investing in ways to significantly reduce emissions and we are engaging with our farmer suppliers to support them on this journey as a matter of urgency.”
Recent programmes includes research at ABP’s R&D farms on ways to help beef farmers reduce their environmental impact. This work has been ongoing for several years using a data-driven approach to improving genetics available to the beef herd so that beef farmers can reduce their environmental impact. The research combines the latest sustainability thinking from the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) and Teagasc in Ireland and Harper Adams University in the UK.
The study has demonstrated a methane emission reduction of up to 40% is
achievable and this could have significant positive benefits across beef production in
the British Isles. “Horizon, ABP’s dairy to beef partnership with Dale Farm in Northern Ireland is putting this research into practice here,” explains George Mullan.
ABP is also collaborating with the Queen’s University of Belfast on ways to make beef farming more sustainable. EIT – C Neutral is a pan-European project working to develop a decision support tool that will be cost effective and easily adopted at farm level to enable a reduction in net GHG emissions from livestock. This research with Queen’s is being carried out at ABP’s Demonstration Farm in Shropshire.
“The idea is that our research pipeline and demonstration farms identify new thinking and innovative practices that can then be shared widely with the farming community”, continues George Mullan.
One way of sharing that knowledge is through the ABP Sustainable Beef Podcast. Hosted by the well known farmer and TV presenter Adam Henson, there have been two episodes to date. They feature conversations with leading industry minds including Jude Capper of Harper Adams University, Professor Temple Grandin, Colorado State University and Professor Chris Reynolds of Reading University.
A group of pupils from Omagh Academy is taking the ABP Angus Youth Challenge Cup home to Co. Tyrone for their winning project on ‘Exploring the potential of a low carbon Angus beef brand.’ Joshua Keys, Tori Robson, James Fleming, Jill Liggett and Allister Crawford have been taking part in the ABP Angus Youth Challenge finalist programme since 2020 along with four other teams from Ballymena Academy; Castle Tower School, Ballymena; Cross & Passion Ballycastle and Magherafelt High School. The Omagh Academy team impressed the judges with their understanding of the challenges to the climate posed by emissions, and their ability to convey in a practical and positive way, the steps farmers can take to mitigate the impact of livestock production to produce sustainable beef for consumers.
Ballymena Academy were Runners-up at the awards ceremony which was held today (28th October 2021) in the Logan Hall, Balmoral Park. Their research assignment explored ‘future-proofing beef farming through technology’. Meanwhile Castle Tower’s team and their teacher received a Highly Commended award for how they brought their passion for farming to life. Two pupils were also singled out for individual awards. Ruth Sheppard from Magherafelt High School won the award for Outstanding Achievement by an Individual and Jessica Livingstone from Ballymena Academy was given a Judges’ Special Merit award.
The Minister for Education, Michelle McIlveen MLA attended the event as Guest of Honour. In her speech she congratulated the award winners and all the finalists for completing their 18-month agri-skills development programme. The Minister said,
“The ABP Angus Youth Challenge is a wonderful example of school / employer engagement and activity. It demonstrates a shared interest in, and shared responsibility for, the future of the young people involved. Through collaboration there is a mutual benefit for both the young people and for employers who share their expertise with the future workforce. I have no doubt that the ABP Angus Youth Challenge has and will continue to enhance the learning experiences and employability skills of the young people involved.”
The competition is delivered by the agri-food company ABP in partnership with the Northern Irish Angus Producer Group. Presenting the Omagh Academy team with a cheque for £1,000 for their school, Managing Director of ABP in Northern Ireland, George Mullan said, “We introduced the ABP Angus Youth Challenge so that young people could gain skills and a practical experience of our sector. Notwithstanding the pandemic, we were determined that the ABP Angus Youth Challenge would continue to nurture the skills and experience necessary for the world of work.”
22 new teams from 14 post primary schools were also in attendance at the Logan Hall to compete for a place in the next finalist programme. They had to exhibit their ideas to an independent panel of agri-food and education professionals. The displays ranged from carbon sequestration and soil health to medical applications of animal by-products and the nutritional comparisons of a vegan versus a flexitarian diet. The teams that go through to the next stage will be announced next month. George Mullan added, “ABP is delighted to have a record number of new teams enter the Challenge this year. Their interest is a strong signal of the value they, their teachers and parents see in the competition as an enhancement to their studies.”
ABP has become the first Irish-owned company to achieve the International Water Stewardship Standard Version V2.0, Platinum Level certification. The leading international sustainability standard was awarded by the (AWS) Alliance for Water Stewardship to the company in recognition of the innovative water stewardship programme at the company’s plant in Bandon, Co. Cork.
ABP Bandon’s water conservation strategy has reduced water consumption at the plant by 145 million litres over the past 12 years – For instance, this is enough water to supply every second house in the town of Bandon with fresh water for a year.
The platinum certification is the highest recognition awarded by AWS and recognises sites that push their water stewardship performance to an elite level. The certification was awarded following a comprehensive audit process of ABP Bandon’s water stewardship programme.
ABP is committed to sustainable water management by continually finding ways to reduce water usage while also ensuring the correct treatment of processed water and wastewater. Through its water stewardship programme at Bandon, ABP has sought to understand its water use and impacts and to work collaboratively with other groups to achieve larger sustainable water management goals, at both a site level and catchment area level.
Simon Callanan, Environmental and Sustainability Officer at ABP, said: “ABP is incredibly proud to have achieved platinum level certification from the Alliance for Water Stewardship. The awarding of this highest level of accreditation from the leading international body specialising in water stewardship validates the hard work that ABP has undertaken to improve its performance in this area continuously. We would like to thank all of our colleagues who have contributed to our work in the area of water stewardship across our sites. Sustainability is a core principle on which our company operates, and we will continue to strive to build upon our performance in this area.”
Finally, The Alliance for Water Stewardship Standard is an internationally recognised certification that provides water stewards with a five-step continual improvement framework that enables sites to commit to, understand, plan, implement, evaluate and communicate water stewardship actions.
ABP has been awarded the prestigious Origin Green Gold Membership by Bord Bia in recognition of the company’s commitment to sustainability. Gold Membership is the highest recognition awarded under the Origin Green programme and is reserved for companies that demonstrate an exceptional annual performance on their sustainability targets based on the assessment of Origin Green’s independent verification authority.
Companies are assessed on their performance in areas such as raw material sourcing, water and energy efficiency, waste reduction, packaging and social sustainability. ABP is a founding member of Origin Green and has made significant progress in its sustainability performance across these areas. The company achieved its 2020 sustainability targets to reduce it carbon footprint by 30%, its electricity usage by 40% and its water consumption by 50% ahead of schedule.
ABP has been a member of the Science Based Targets initiative BTi) since 2019 and the company’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets have been validated by the SBTi, demonstrating ABP’s commitment to aligning its sustainability strategy to the g(Slobal 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).
Kevin Cahill, Managing Director of ABP Ireland said: “As a founding member, we are very proud of our long association with Origin Green and we are delighted to have achieved Gold Membership status. Our business depends on natural resources to produce its products and we are acutely aware of our responsibility to ensure that those resources are in place for our children and for their children. That is why sustainability and operating to that core principle goes to the very heart of everything we do at ABP.”
As part of its commitment to reduce its carbon emissions, ABP has also 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 is showing that significant methane emission reductions are possible and this could have significant positive benefits across Irish beef production.
ABP’s water conservation strategy has also resulted in an overall reduction in water consumption across its plants in Ireland by approximately 5,027,207,400 litres over the past twelve years, the equivalent of 16,757,300 baths, 91,403,700 showers, or over 2,011 olympic swimming pools. ABP is committed to sustainable water management through continually reducing resource consumption by finding ways to reduce water usage while ensuring the correct treatment of process water and wastewater.
Finally, Origin Green is Ireland’s pioneering food and drink sustainability programme, operating on a national scale, uniting government, the private sector and the full supply chain from farmers to food producers and right through to the foodservice and retail sectors. The programme is the worlds’ only national food and drink sustainability programme, and enables the industry to set and achieve measurable sustainability targets that respect the environment and serve local communities more effectively.
New ABP Angus Youth Challenge is now open for entries. ABP NI is offering 14-15 year olds the chance to take part in a new version of the ABP Angus Youth Challenge, its agri-skills competition for teenagers. The format has been updated for the start of the new academic school year to ensure ease of supervision by teachers and ease of participation alongside GCSE studies. The competition offers the chance to win great prizes – including a mini-herd of Angus cross calves to rear worth c.£3,500 and a three-day study tour with ABP, however, it will complete within a shorter timeframe and events will take place outside term-time.
“In view of the disruption that schools have faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, we have worked with educators to streamline the competition. It is aligned more closely to learning outcomes of a range of GCSE subjects to support attainment. It continues to offer teenagers a unique work experience of beef production from farm to fork and complements their studies in a ‘learning-by-doing’ way,” explained Charles Smith of the Northern Irish Angus Producer Group who co-ordinates the competition on behalf of ABP.
Our main events, such as the exhibition and training will take place during mid-term breaks.”
The teams that reach the final stage of the Challenge will be assigned a Mentor from the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise to support their work on research assignments.
“It is our hope that the complimentary study tour with ABP and the professional training in communication and presentation skills can take place face-to-face in 2022. The programme will complete within one year leaving the winners free to concentrate on their Year 12 examinations,” continued Charles Smith.
Entry to the ABP Angus Youth Challenge is by way of a short video submission followed by an online interview. A selection of entrants will be invited to take part in an exhibition- style event during the Halloween break. An independent panel will judge the teams and their displays to determine which go through to the finalist programme and win the prizes. An overall winning team will win £1,000 for their club/society or school.
Commenting on ABP’s commitment to this initiative, the Managing Director of ABP in Northern Ireland, George Mullan said, “The ABP Angus Youth Challenge connects with young people at an important stage of their education. We want to inspire them to work in our sector. We have seen how young people benefit from this experience and we invite more to access the opportunity it presents.”
Castle Tower School Ballymena; Cross and Passion College Ballycastle; Ballymena Academy; Magherafelt High School and Omagh Academy will complete the finalist programme at the end of this year. Meanwhile Dalriada School Ballymoney; Cookstown High School; Friends’ School Lisburn and St Kevin’s College Lisnaskea entered the finalist programme in June 2021. The ABP Angus Youth Challenge is open to teams of 2-4 individuals from schools, clubs, societies or a group of friends. Entrants do not have to live on a farm or be part of a farming family to take part. ABP will assist finalists in the provision of a suitable farm.
Enter at: ABP Angus Youth Challenge. Closing date for receipt of entries is 27th September 2021.
For competition queries contact Gillian Allen at ABP firstname.lastname@example.org or the Northern Ireland Angus Producer Group at email@example.com
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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