A cut in the size of the national herd would mean a cut in the level of economic activity and potentially a drop in income for the farmers involved, Kevin Hanrahan of the rural economy and development centre at Teagasc has said.
When asked about cutting the national herd on RTÉ’s Drivetime on Monday evening he said the number of beef cows is projected to decline because many farmers are not making much money from beef.
“Those cow numbers could decline. One thing that people need to remember, is dairy and beef cows rely on the grass resources Ireland has and if we reduce beef cow numbers dramatically, through policy measures for instance, that grassland is likely to be used by dairy cows.
“The emissions per cow are higher for dairy cows than beef cows. So we need to do this carefully,” he said.
On the Climate Action Plan announced by the Government last week, Hanrahan said the three big ticket items that will deliver the biggest reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are dairy EBI, changes in the type of fertiliser Irish farmers use and changes in how slurry is spread on farms.
“There’s another 24 measures in total. The full adoption of all those measures by Irish agriculture over the period to 2030 should allow us to hit the targets we’ve been set within the climate action plan, while still having an agricultural system that is based largely still on producing meat and dairy products off grassland,” he said.
What about the cars?
Also speaking on the programme was IFA UIster-north Leinster chair Nigel Renaghan who said that Ireland is an agricultural country.
“Let’s be honest here. We’re an agricultural country, what do you expect? We’re not like Germany where we’re producing huge amounts of cars. We’re an agricultural country so if we are an agricultural country you’re going to get agricultural emissions.
“That’s like going into the city of London and saying ‘Oh London you are great, you produce very little greenhouse gases from agriculture’. There’s no bloody agriculture in London so let’s be relevant here.
“People are asking questions like we’ve big emissions from agriculture in Ireland, of course we do we’re an agricultural country. [In] the same way as Germany has huge emissions from the car industry so let’s just keep everything in proportion. We’re an easy target. What about the cars? What about the jets? The transportation? Nobody wants to pin them down,” Renaghan said.
Environmental scientist Cara Augustenborg said the plan is “very much a business-as-ususal approach to agriculture and doesn’t even mention the issue of increasing the herd size”.
Macra president Thomas Duffy told Drivetime that Irish farmers are actually working very hard to reduce emissions.
“We’re the only country in the world that does farm by farm carbon assessments, that’s massive because ultimately you can’t manage what you can’t measure. We need to introduce measures that work for farmers and are actually practical,” he said.
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