19 May 2021
A group of Welsh farmers are embarking on carbon audits to understand the level of greenhouse gases (GHG) they are producing and to inform an action plan to reduce emissions if needed.
The farmers are all members of a Farming Connect discussion group in Meirionnydd.
They are using a carbon calculating tool to scrutinise everything from their use of fuels, electricity, fertilisers and sprays to livestock fertility and cropping.
Understanding the carbon footprint is the first step in a farm’s journey to producing food from carbon-neutral or low carbon footprint practices, says Eryl Roberts, Farming Connect's development officer for Meirionnydd.
“Having a comprehensive understanding of the carbon footprint can help farmers create an action plan for lowering it,’’ says Mr Roberts, who is leading the project.
One of the farms involved is Dolau Gwyn, Bryncrug, where Hugh and Jessica Williams farm with Hugh’s parents, Edward and Marian.
They produce beef and lamb from a herd of Welsh Black cattle and pedigree Lleyns and hardy Welsh Mountain ewes on 550 acres of upland hill land and 200 acres of lowland.
They suspect that the farm’s carbon footprint will be low due to carbon neutral agricultural practices on the farm including a high ewe twinning rate, allowing farm emissions to be spread over more kilogrammes of lamb sold.
Nutrients are also applied precisely having already established the nutrient requirements of their soils by nutrient management planning through the Farming Connect Advisory Service, resulting in a reduction in the amount of fertiliser used.
The Williams’ also have good grassland management policies in place.
Moving forward, understanding the farm’s carbon data will allow them to introduce realistic changes to their farming practices if needed.
With more consumers demanding sustainable food sources and governments offering financial incentives to greener businesses, on-farm carbon audits can make farms more profitable.
For the Williams’, the recent launch of a boxed meat scheme was another reason to get involved in the carbon calculating project.
“I want to have the answers if people ask about the carbon footprint of the meat they are buying,’’ says Jessica.
Carbon calculators like the one they are using can identify sources of emissions, benchmark emissions against similar businesses and create a baseline for monitoring progress towards low carbon farming practices.
Carbon related advice is available for eligible Farming Connect registered business through the Advisory Service. One-to-one confidential advice, up to 80% funded for individuals and fully funded for group advice could help your businesses asses it’s natural assets, consider changes to reduce negative environmental impact and implement cost-effective, efficient practises.
A new accredited training course on reducing greenhouse gasses in livestock systems is also available to apply for during the next skills application window which is open now until 25 June 2021.
For those who wish to learn more about the topic at a time that suits them there is an e-learning module on agricultural air pollution available to complete at any time. More information can be found on the Farming Connect website or contact the Farming Connect Service Centre on 08456 000 813.
Farming Connect, which is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra, has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.