Farming sustainably yields results
Food safety, traceability, animal welfare and environmental protection are the cornerstones of the standard. Bord Bia recently launched the Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme, which responds to market demand for Ireland to continue to prove its sustainability credentials.
The well-established and accredited Quality Assurance schemes are being revamped to include sustainability criteria.
Launched in 2012, Origin Green is the first and only sustainability programme in the world to operate at a national scale and provides us with a key point of differentiation to market and showcase Irish produce to global and domestic customers.
Irish farmers who are certified members of the Bord Bia Quality Assurance schemes and who participate in a farm sustainability survey as part of the audit process, are part of Origin Green.
At farm level, the Origin Green sustainability programme operates across the Irish beef and dairy sectors with plans to broaden it to lamb, pigmeat, poultry, eggs, horticulture and grain. The sustainability survey gathers information ranging from grazing season and feed to energy and biodiversity.
An increasing number of Irish farmers are recognising that improved sustainability practices are good for their farm and business too. Farmers report that the Origin Green targets have resulted in efficiencies on the farm which have improved profitability as well as reducing the carbon footprint of the farm. This highlights that sustainable farming and efficient farming go hand in hand.
It is also evident that there is a lot of pride from farming sustainably, with the reassurance that you are helping to preserve the farm for future generations.
Measuring, learning and improving
Bord Bia Quality Assurance auditors visit Origin Green farms every 18 months. Over 100 farm auditors undertake almost 800 independent farm audits each week. The sustainability survey conducted as part of the Quality Assurance audit, is supported by a carbon navigator, developed with Teagasc and Bord Bia to help Origin Green farmers identify areas for improvement on their farm.
Bord Bia eliminates duplication of time and effort by blending the information gathered on the farm, with production information from the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) and herd profile data from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Origin Green farmers are given feedback with advice tailored specifically for their farm. This information can help farmers to set targets which can improve sustainability and increase profitability on their farms. The targets are tailored for the farm in question and are very achievable.
Focus on hotspots
The focus is on hotspots known as ‘‘key improvement measures’’ where there is most likely to be a benefit both economically and to the environment – so there is an all-round ‘‘win-win’’ when targets are achieved.
Key improvement measures on Origin Green beef farms include extending grazing season, decreasing calving age, increasing calving rate, liveweight gain and efficiency of nitrogen use and slurry management.
Key improvement measures on Origin Green dairy farms include economic breeding index (EBI), grazing season, energy use, efficiency of nitrogen use and slurry management.
Protecting and enhancing biodiversity on farms is also a key part of Origin Green. Biodiversity action plans on farms can include targets ranging from planting of trees to encouraging native flora and fauna.
I am involved with Origin Green so that I can bring my business to another level as an expanding dairy farmer. Origin Green links profitability with carbon reductions. The targets are realistic – and we exceed some of them. There is much more to be gained. It is an exciting time. I am the fourth generation working this farm, my kids are the fifth generation. Origin Green is making a huge contribution to helping preserve the land for future generations”
– Joe Hayden, Killaveney, Tinahely, Co Wicklow, Origin Green dairy farmer
Participating in Origin Green makes perfect sense… it costs nothing to incorporate Origin Green, it increases your efficiency, allowing you to increase your output, ultimately allowing you to increase profitability. The output of the farm has increased significantly since joining the initiative. I’m also looking after the environment without causing any harm”
– Michael Murphy, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, Origin Green farmer and Beef Farmer of the Year 2015
Figures in the Sustainability Report for 2016 recently published by Bord Bia show that over 137,000 carbon assessments have been completed on Irish beef and dairy farms since the inception of Origin Green.
These audits have provided Bord Bia with some 24.7m pieces of information on the performance of Irish farms with regard to sustainable practices.
According to Bord Bia, over 37,000 individual improvement targets have been established for Irish beef farmers and another 28,000 for dairy farmers. When completed, these targets could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 7% and 14%, respectively.
Research from Teagasc demonstrates that farmers who work towards the identified targets can boost financial performance and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
For example, a carbon navigator sustainable farming target, such as a 10-day increase in the length of the grazing season, can cut emissions by 1.7% and boost performance by up to €27 per cow.
Teagasc research shows that a target such as a 20% shift to spring slurry application on dairy and beef farms can reduce farm emissions by 1% and improve income by €10/ha.
Retail and foodservice customers, as well as food and drink manufacturers, are increasingly committed to “sustainable sourcing”– sourcing from suppliers with robust and recognised certification, such as the Bord Bia Quality Assurance scheme.
The excellent sustainability work on Irish farms is continued by Bord Bia through the food chain into manufacturing, with Origin Green-verified member companies accounting for over 90% of Ireland’s total food and drink exports portfolio.
Origin Green gives the Irish food and drinks industry an advantage by creating a clear point of difference from the competition.
Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine Michael Creed welcomed the Origin Green Sustainability Report. “Ireland is world-renowned as a producer of safe, quality and sustainable food. The Origin Green brand and the assurances it provides our international customers will assist us as we strive to open new markets.”
Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme
The Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme will replace the existing beef and lamb quality assurance schemes on a phased basis over the next 18 months. The new scheme includes a close-out period and a Bord Bia helpdesk to assist farmers prepare for their audit. Find out more at www.bordbia.ie
Visit www.macra.ie/origingreen to find out about the sustainable Irish farming photo competition from Macra na Feirme and Bord Bia. Photos can be entered by e mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or instantly on Twitter, tag