Castellior Project Introduction: Quantifying the carbon footprint of a lowland beef finishing system: identifying opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on-farm

Site: Castellior, Pentraeth Road, Porthaethwy, Ynys Môn

Technical Officer: Non Williams

Project Title: Quantifying the carbon footprint of a lowland beef finishing system: identifying opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on-farm


Introduction to project: 

In 2019, a target of 95% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by 2050 relative to those produced in 1990 was adopted by the UK Government, following a recommendation by the Committee on Climate Change (Committee on Climate Change, 2019). Welsh Government has committed to this target, and has set out in its low carbon delivery plan, ‘Prosperity for All: A Low Carbon Wales’ to further reduce GHG production in order to reach net zero emissions by 2050 (Welsh Government, 2019b). Due to this, there is a responsibility on every sector to reduce its associated GHG emissions. The agricultural sector was responsible for 12% of Welsh greenhouse gas emissions in 2016 (Welsh Government, 2019a). For livestock systems, a significant proportion of these emissions occur in the form of methane, via enteric fermentation, and nitrous oxide emissions from soils by means of nitrogen fertiliser use and excreta.

Nevertheless, livestock systems are both a source and sink of GHGs, with considerable potential to remove GHGs from the atmosphere by carbon sequestration within soils, trees and hedges on-farm, contributing to balance the GHGs produced.
Red meat farmers are generally becoming increasingly aware of their farm’s environmental effect and the importance of implementing low-carbon practices. 

Castellior is a lowland farm that has recently sold the breeding sheep flock and is therefore solely managed as a beef finishing system. The farm is self-sufficient in terms of feed, other than supplemented salt that is purchased. Dylan Jones, the host farmer, acknowledges the environmental pressure facing the industry, partly driven by government targets such as those mentioned above but also by increasing consumer demand for sustainable food products, and recognises the importance of quantifying the farm’s environmental impact.


Project objectives:

The overarching aim of this project will be to quantify the net carbon footprint of a lowland beef finishing system. This will consist of determining the GHGs produced from on-farm activities, as well as carbon sequestration to remove GHGs from the atmosphere on-farm.

This project will focus on the production element (the GHGs produced on-farm), and aim to identify opportunities for GHG mitigation in the future. This could provide a long-term strategy for Castellior, as the timescale for implementing and measuring the mitigation strategies will be beyond the duration of this project. Nevertheless, this project will aim to predict the effect of applying specific mitigation strategies on the farm’s carbon footprint in the future. An estimation of carbon sequestration levels will also be useful for the farm going forward.


Key Performance Indicators Set:

It is infeasible to set the Key Performance Indicators in terms of specific mitigation strategies at the outset, as the main emission sources that can be targeted are largely unknown at this point. However, some examples of potential mitigation strategies and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are as follows:

  • Increase the daily liveweight gain (DLWG) of the lowest performing cattle by 10%. This would potentially reduce the days to slaughter (by a certain amount of days, to be determined with host farmer once the lowest performing cattle have been identified).
  • Reduce the occurrence of respiratory diseases within the herd (e.g. pneumonia) by vaccinating as the cattle arrive on the farm (vet guidance/input on this). This would increase cattle performance, thereby reducing the farm’s carbon footprint.
  • Incorporate additional red clover into reseeded swards – reducing fertiliser usage, and therefore reducing the GHG emissions associated with application.

The mitigation strategy implemented may target a combination of minor Key Performance Indicators that will be achievable to implement on-farm and lead to emission reductions, as opposed to solely targeting the highest emission source. This will be decided after the farm’s current carbon footprint has been determined.


Timeline and Milestones: