Northern Ireland – one of the most carbon efficient places to produce food

NIGTA members Paul Sloan and Stewart Watson have a chat at the FAR Seminar in Antrim. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
NIGTA members Paul Sloan and Stewart Watson have a chat at the FAR Seminar in Antrim. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
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“This is the ongoing aim agreed and being implemented by the agri food industry and government working together.”

This was the message Peter Scott from DARD’s Climate Change and Renewable Energy Branch told a meeting of registered feed advisers organised by the NI Grain Trade Association.

George Perrott, Head of Feed Sector, AIC speaker at the FAR (Farm Adviser Register) Seminar in Antrim. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

George Perrott, Head of Feed Sector, AIC speaker at the FAR (Farm Adviser Register) Seminar in Antrim. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Outlining recent developments for achieving this aim Peter stated that the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) report issued in September pointed to efficient and good farming practice as the key to achieving GHG reductions with carbon intensity being the measurement.

He also noted that Climate Change is an element of the Rural Development Programme and one of the measures within this is “precision livestock feeding”.

In line with these recommendations the NI Greenhouse Gas Implementation Partnership which includes representatives from government and all sectors of the agri food industry has formed a sequestrian sub group to sit alongside the arable, dairy and red meat subgroups.

The sequestrian sub group will examine the potential to reduce agriculture’s total carbon footprint by maximising the carbon stored in soil, grassland and forestry – better nutrient management is the core theme.

The NI Greenhouse Gas Implementation Partnership’s strategy will be aligned with the Rural Development Programme’s efficiency measures that deliver carbon savings. This efficiency is vital to ensure that imported food with a much higher carbon footprint does not replace local produce.

Peter Scott emphasised that the overall aim is not only to meet legislative targets but to make Northern Ireland one of the most carbon efficient places in the world to produce food. The members of the Feed Advisers Register (FAR) would play a vital role in communicating this message at grass roots level and in assisting the industry to achieve the efficiency measures required.

Feed Adviser Training

Following these comments, George Perrott, Head of Feed Sector AIC (Agricultural Industries Confederation), which is NIGTA’s affiliated organisation in GB, told the seminar that over 100 feed advisers in Northern Ireland are registered with FAR (Feed Advisers Register). Progress training for this is carried out on-line and includes environmental aspects, farming systems and profitability. He pointed out that all of these sectors are inter-related and advisers must be familiar with all of them in order to assist farmers to achieve these objectives.

Advisers who complete Module 1 of the training programme will be familiar with the various environmental emissions, the nutrient content of forages and feeds; feed management systems; feed labelling; measuring of feed performance and environmental aspects including the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan.

Module two will be devoted to the nutritional link to animal health and fertility in ruminants. Advisers must be aware of the on-farm opportunities to improve fertility, health and welfare. They must have the knowledge to determine the nutrients supplied from home produced feed and forage and be cognisant of ALL sources of mineral and vitamins from feed – mineral licks, buckets, water, bolus, drench, injection etc and advise how to balance these in the overall feeding programme.

Advisers must show competency with computer rationing programs and work with the farmer to monitor production performance data, assisting with improvement plans where necessary.

Awareness of customer requirements will be an important knowledge area – understanding processor contracts, environmental and welfare requirements, and government and European policy pressures.

George added: “Farm advisers are an important source of information and advice since they are interacting on a one-to –one basis with the farmer, and have built a relationship of trust and confidence. Their input will help ensure that the industry plays its part in the environmental and animal welfare aspects along with farm profitability in order to achieve sustainable and profitable food production in the province.”