Feed industry focus on emission reductions
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There is a need to not only feed, but also properly nourish this growing population sustainably, whilst striving to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate. Last month world leaders gathered in the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm el-Sheikh for the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP 27.
Prior to the conference, the United Nations Environment Program warned that urgent action is needed to be able to limit global warming to 1.5C, whilst the floods that devastated parts of Pakistan, and heatwaves that spread across Europe, are a stark reminder of the threats posed by a changing climate.
Earlier this year, Northern Ireland received its first ever Climate Change Act, which set a legally binding Net Zero target and requires net methane emissions to be reduced by 46% by 2050 compared to the 1990 baseline year.
As we await a new policy roadmap of actions to achieve these targets, it is clear that research and innovation in both mitigation and adaptation will be needed alongside professional advice.
The feed industry has been leading the way in providing quality nutritional and feeding advice to farming customers on how to increase productivity, improve efficiency and enhance animal health to help reduce GHG and other environmental emissions.
Around 130 local sales and advisory personnel are members of the Feed Adviser Register (FAR). FAR provides continuous professional development to ensure members are up to date with current issues related to whole farm feed planning, nutrition, health, welfare and fertility, and environmental policies.
There is also a module for local FAR members which focuses on the environmental issues that are pertinent to NI and has been co-delivered with CAFRE.
This training will be updated to ensure the content is relevant and reflects current policy, best practice, and scientific advancements.
A multifaceted toolkit is needed to help lower emissions. The Future Agricultural Policy makes provision for the development of an industry led Ruminant Genetics Programme which will encourage the breeding of more environmentally efficient cattle, while better farm management, nutrient management planning and improved grassland management all have a key part to play.
From a feed perspective, the industry is focused on precision nutrition to increase production efficiency and reduce emissions by supplying the correct nutrients required to support the nutritional requirements of the animals being fed.
Reducing the risk from anti-nutritional factors such as mycotoxins is also important, which has been greatly aided by our world leading Food Fortress surveillance programme. In addition, paying close attention to how the feed is delivered and minimising wastage is essential. All of these initiatives are considered best practice and not only contribute to lower emissions but also enhance profitability.
There has also been increased interest in the development and use of methane suppressing feed additives in ruminant diets as a means of driving methane reductions even further, such as methanogenesis inhibitors, seaweeds, essential oils, organic acids and probiotics.
Some of these products have been proven to reduce methane by up to 30% without any negative impact on performance. Further research is ongoing to establish how to optimise their use in pasture-based systems. The widespread uptake of methane reducing feed products is likely to be dependent on the financial return to be gained from using them, either in terms of some form of proven production benefit or supply chain incentive scheme.
About NIGTA – The Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association was founded in 1966 and represents traders, manufacturers, processors, distributors, brokers and service providers who are involved in the Northern Ireland agricultural supply trade.