For over sixty years ABP is proud to be one of the leading innovators in the meat and agri-food sector, working with farmers across the British Isles. We have embraced Science Based Targets and are committed to playing our role in helping reduce Green House Gases (GHGs) to minimise the impact of Global Warming, supporting their Customers, Consumers, and Governments to achieve their respective Net Zero targets.
We have mapped the ‘Farm to Fork’ Carbon footprint of the beef processing supply chain. Despite the fact that beef produced on farms across the British Isles is amongst the most sustainable in the world with a carbon footprint of half of the global average, 90% of emissions across the ABP supply chain are at farm level. We have been conducting industry leading research with leading universities and research institutions to look at ways of helping beef farmers to reduce their environmental impact.
In a multi-year study carried out at our Demonstration Farms in UK and in Ireland we have 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.
In the first phase of the study, the aim was to establish and validate the potential of Genetic improvement through selective breeding, using a data-driven approach that leads to the siring of beef animals that – put simply – are more efficient at converting feed to protein, reaching their target weight at an earlier age.
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 £150 per head – showing economic and environmental sustainability can travel hand in hand. And, the unique pasture-based system promotes best in class animal welfare, soil health, grass types and grazing systems and general biodiversity.
Phase 1 of this research has been animal focused while the next phase is starting to look at a whole farm approach, with the help of independent experts and Harper Adams University capturing the latest thinking in animal grazing, precision agriculture, land management and biodiversity. The results of this work will offer British farmers sustainable farming practices that give them a world beating competitive edge.
A major multi-year study yields more sustainable dairy and beef farm performance
In 2015, we began a major study in conjunction with the ICBF and Teagasc on our R&D farm in County Wexford, a typical 280 acre beef farm owned, run and live-on by an experienced beef farming family.
The lifting of milk quotas saw a rapid increase in the amount of dairy beef cattle and the objective for this project was to look at ways at introducing a more all-round sustainable beef production model for the dairy herd.
Our sustainability study
The study looks at identifying more economic and sustainable beef bulls to breed superior beef calves from the dairy herd. It also involves the application of ABP’s Blade Farming model to ensure that these calves are reared as efficiently and sustainably as possible.
So far the project has involved over 3,000 calves and results have shown that improved genetics in the dairy herd does improve the overall sustainability (environmental and economic) of dairy beef production.
The latest results have demonstrated a significant shift in carbon reductions through better breeding, more efficient rearing practices and reduced age of slaughter. The findings show the potential to:
- Reduce enteric methane emissions by up to 17% within cattle breed
- Reduce enteric methane emissions by up to 28% across cattle breed
- Reduce enteric methane reductions by up to 36% across different farming systems
The results also highlight the potential for improved yields of up to €200 on animal carcass values for beef farmers. Likewise, dairy farmers will increase profitability through short gestation and easy calving, as well as minimising the number of low value dairy bred bullocks.
Efficient and sustainable
The production of beef from the dairy herd on pasture based systems is the most environmentally sustainable and economically efficient beef production system in the world.
This research has demonstrated that it can be made even more efficient by dairy farmers selecting the best bulls to produce these animals which are finished at a younger age with lower feed requirements.
As the national dairy herd in Ireland is now contributing over 60% of the beef animals the impact of dairy farmers selecting suitable beef sires has the potential to have a very significant impact on national livestock carbon emissions and improving sustainability of beef production.