Feed manufacturer Devenish is collaborating with meat and food manufacturing group OSI Europe to share data on sustainable livestock farming. The partners intend to use this work to deliver a carbon neutral farming system by 2030.

Devenish has been measuring the true environmental impact of livestock production at its Global Innovation Centre located in Ireland’s Co Meath for the past six years. OSI Europe, part of the global OSI Group, is undertaking similar research at the Brongain sustainability trial farm in Wales managed by the Pickstock Telford family-owned integrated beef business.

“This unique research project will enable us to further explore ways to make food production more sustainable,” notes Devenish executive chairman Owen Brennan. “Using light detection and ranging (LiDAR) remote sensing technology, we are measuring carbon storage and sequestration by livestock grazing diverse swards, as well as above ground biomass in the form of trees and hedgerows.

“It is vital that we can measure the sequestration potential of the landscape which livestock live in against the carbon emissions they produce. The more efficiently we can produce animal protein, and the more carbon we can store in the landscape, the closer we get to carbon neutrality.

“The project also considers the role of nitrogen fixing plants such as legumes and herbal leys. This is key, as these plants reduce the requirement for grassland to receive nitrogen fertiliser applications, which have emissions associated with them. The research also utilises the usual parameters measured in current carbon footprint models to include stock numbers, feed consumption, finishing ages and fertiliser use.

“Grass-based systems allow for healthier soils with lots of earthworms and little disturbance to the land. This means the soil is often richer in carbon and organic nitrogen, and many biodiversity benefits flow from this.

“Agriculture and forestry are the only two industries globally that both produce emissions and store carbon. Hence why it is important that we showcase the true, net environmental impact of this industry,” Mr Brennan concludes.

Managing director of OSI Europe, Kevin Cahill, adds: “This work will allow us to collect, analyse and compare a larger pool of data from different livestock systems. We can then combine resources to interpret this data and identify the best way to tackle livestock emissions.

“The longer-term vision is for OSI Europe and Devenish to share the findings of the research with livestock farms across the UK, so that producers can identify the true environmental impact of their farm and how they can work towards helping the industry become carbon neutral, while allowing the public to continue to enjoy high quality, nutrient-rich meat as part of their diet.”