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The Climate Challenge; benefiting beef and business?

By Robert Ramsay, Senior Agricultural Consultant, SAC Consulting

With COP 26 (United Nations Conference of the Parties) on the horizon, farmers can be sure that the environmental impact of beef production will be back under the microscope.  We will hear bold claims, from both sides of the argument about methane, ruminants and the environment.  While farmers should be aware of the outcomes of COP 26, it is important to also consider what you can achieve.  Global issues, such as feed lot agriculture, water usage and deforestation will be well scrutinised and rightly so.  However, these are international issues and very different to the systems we operate in Scotland, we need to set ourselves apart and ensure all beef production isn't tarred with the same brush.  There is a huge amount of positive work happening in Scotland, making our current systems even more sustainable than they already are.  There are many bodies that will be working hard to showcase Scottish beef production during this 2-week conference.

The word efficiency comes up a lot with regards to the environment.  However, farmers should be mindful that most of the on-farm mitigation options they have at their disposal will also have a positive impact on their pockets.  Whils COP 26 is running, farmers will be preparing and heading into winter, the most expensive time of the year for most.  It is important both in terms of efficiency and profitability to lighten the load and avoid carrying any passengers through the winter.  A simple pregnancy diagnosis of suckler cows will cost a few pounds, provide excellent management information which could help reduce your environmental impact and save you a lot of money.  Any empty cows found in the autumn should be culled out of the system, releasing their capital value and avoiding the burden of their wintering costs.  This year, silage and straw stocks are limited in some parts of the country, so it is even more important to remove passengers from the system.  While the environmental impact of methane emissions from cattle is argued by many, no one can argue that an empty cow is and efficient one.

This article from Farming for a Better Climate was first published in the Farming Scotland Magazine in September 2021.