Welsh red meat sector “proactive” in addressing climate change

Welsh beef and lamb producers are driving forward the industry’s climate change agenda by linking environmental actions to good commercial practices, according to research from Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC). 

“Our research shows the red meat industry is proactively working to help with climate change solutions,” said Dr Prysor Williams, senior lecturer in environmental management at Bangor University.

“Increasingly, farmers understand that a range of practical and cost-effective measures that improve technical efficiency on farm will also mitigate factors that affect climate change.

“This is not just a ‘worthy’ enterprise or a response to a moral imperative or political pressure; this is a win-win-win situation for farmers as they can benefit the environment while benefitting their animals.”

The research is based on a survey that gathered information from more than 286 Welsh beef and sheep producers. Information, such as the inputs of feeds, fertilisers, pesticides, bedding and fuel, as well as stock numbers and movements throughout the year were analysed, with an emphasised focus on the importance of productivity and efficiency in maximising output per unit input.

“Our industry is under the microscope perhaps more than any other industry,” added Williams.

“It is important to respond to the challenge and be proactive in reducing emissions. Every sector has to play a part, if we are to meet the UK Climate Change Act target to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050.”

Williams did admit that improvements could be made to the sector, but he was confident they could be made. “But we have excellent farmers and some excellent tools, such as the HCC Environmental Road Map, so we’re well placed to face up to the challenge. The work shows that if we can move the sector to be as efficient as the top 25% of farms, then this could make very significant reductions in emissions from the sector, and ultimately more profitable farms.”

HCC’s top ten tips on improving efficiency while increasing sustainability:
1)    Improve utilisation of grass and clover grown to maximise growth and finishing rates
2)    Investigate causes of any barren animals
3)    Record growth rates and send to market as soon as animals meet requirements
4)    Review your flock or herd health plan and ensure taking action to minimize any risk of disease
5)    Protect carbon sinks such as peatlands or woodlands
6)    Address soil pH and only apply fertilizers if required
7)    Analyse manure prior to application
8)    Consider lambing ewe lambs
9)    Reduce calving intervals and consider calving heifers as early as possible
10)    Attend HCC selection for slaughter training courses

Williams is one of a panel of specialists who will be taking part in HCC’s ON-Farm roadshow, which provides a platform for experts to present their findings directly to farmers.

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