The provision of coupled direct payments linked to suckler cows from 2022 onwards is expected to slow “the projected rate of decline in the Irish beef cow inventory”, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said.
It made the finding in an analysis of projected emissions data to 2030.
The Irish Farmers Journal understands these payments refer to the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme - Sucklers (BEEP-S) scheme and the new Suckler Cow Efficiency Programme (SCEP).
By 2030, under the modeling completed by the EPA, beef cow numbers are projected to be around 748,000 head, a 16% decrease relative to 2022.
The modeling was undertaken to look at “the agriculture emissions projections based on alternative projected activity data that assumes stronger growth in agricultural activity levels”.
The modeling examines the consequences of continued strong growth in the dairy herd accompanied by a beef cow herd that is projected to contract at a slower rate than the rate of decline observed since the end of the milk quota regime in 2015.
“Under this sensitivity scenario, with stronger milk prices, Irish dairy cow numbers are projected to increase,” the EPA said.
Dairy cow numbers in 2030, under the sensitivity scenario, are projected to reach 1.756m. This represents an 12% increase relative to 2022.
As the dairy share of the total cattle population increases, the EPA said that the higher stocking rate is reflected in a higher level of nitrogen use per hectare.
“In 2030, the total use of nitrogen is projected to be 419,546t. This represents a 22% increase relative to the observed levels of use in 2022,” it said.
By 2030, Irish ewe and total sheep numbers are projected to decline 16% relative to 2022 due to greater competition for land from other grassland enterprises such as milk and beef production.
Ireland’s total cropland area is projected to decrease 11% over the period 2022 to 2030 in the analysis.
This is due to the higher profitability of land use in dairy production systems, the EPA said.
This week, the EPA said that should the sector continue to only implement existing measures, then it would only reduce emissions by 4% by 2030.
In contrast, with the uptake of additional measures such as feed additives, all measures in Government’s climate plan and Teagasc’s MACC curve, then the sector could reduce emissions by up to 20% by 2030.
This would still result in Ireland falling 5% short of our 25% cut in emissions ceiling by 2030, as the EPA projected this week.