Farming's climate challenge getting bigger
Increasing numbers of dairy cow are driving farming's greenhouse gas emissions, though other key sectors fare worse, the latest data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows.

Greenhouse gas emissions from Irish agriculture grew by 2.7% last year, following a 1.5% increase in 2015. “The most significant drivers for the increased emissions in 2016 are higher dairy cow numbers, (+6.2%) with an increase in milk production of 4.4%,” the EPA reported.

Other sources of increased agricultural emissions, although smaller in volume, showed faster increases, such as spreading lime (+8.4%) and urea (+26.5%).

After a steady decline from 1990 to 2011, emissions from agriculture have now increased for four of the past five years, according to the EPA.

While farming remains the largest source of greenhouse gases in the country, the other two main contributing sectors showed faster-growing emissions. Those from energy generation grew by 6.1% and those from transport by 3.7%.

Cara Augustenborg of the environmental advocacy group Friends of the Earth said: “Our emissions have increased in almost every sector, including transport, agriculture, and energy – demonstrating a systemic problem in how our country functions.”

2020 targets

Overall, Ireland is now just in line with its European emission target for the so-called non-ETS sector, which includes agriculture, transport and home heating. If confirmed, the existing trends would see the country miss its targets from this year as we approach the 2020 deadline and associated financial penalties.

We produce our food sustainably and know we can do more

IFA environment chair Thomas Cooney said: “Agriculture remains the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland, reflecting the importance of the sector to the national economy, with over 300,000 employed directly and indirectly in Ireland’s largest indigenous sector. However, we produce our food sustainably and know we can do more.”

While he blamed the expected missed targets on the “bad deal” done when obligations were agreed at EU level for 2020, Cooney said that the millions of euros expected to be paid in expected fines should instead be directed towards an immediate “climate activation programme”.

The programme includes five points recently detailed in the Irish Farmers Journal by IFA president Joe Healy, including the re-opening of GLAS and development of tools such as smart farming and the carbon navigator, as well as forestry, biomass and solar energy incentives for farmers.

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How much carbon is in my milk?
Relating greenhouse gas emissions to each unit of agricultural production can help buyers choose the most carbon-efficient products, with Irish milk's carbon intensity the lowest in the EU.

Northern Ireland's Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has published its carbon intensity indicators for 2016, showing that 1kg of milk at standard fat and protein content was associated with greenhouse gas emissions of 1.285kg carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).

This is a reduction of one third on 1990 levels.

"Whilst milk production in the dairy sector has expanded by 66% since 1990, the total number of dairy cows over this period has remained relatively static, meaning this improvement has been driven by substantial increases in milk yield per cow," according to a DAERA statement . The carbon efficiency of milk has also improved faster than the rest of Northern Ireland's economy.


In the Republic, emissions from 1kg of standard milk amounted to 1.14kg CO2e. While there's no recent European comparison, a 2011 official study found the Irish carbon intensity of milk to be the lowest in the EU.

Meanwhile, 1kg of Irish beef was responsible for 11.58kg of emissions in 2016. Those values continue to improve every year.

Read a full explanation of the way greenhouse gas emissions are calculated in Thursday's Irish Farmers Journal.

The farmer's daily wrap: Delvin Mart canteen rodent problem and details of EID
Catch up with all the top headlines and get a look ahead at tomorrow's weather.

Weather forecast

Tonight will become quite windy, with freshening southerly breezes.

It will be predominantly dry, but there will be a few patches of rain and drizzle about.

Minimum temperatures of 5°C to 9°C, according to Met Éireann.

Tuesday will see a dry day in many central and eastern counties.

Rain will extend across most of Munster and Connacht by the afternoon.

Rain will then gradually spread eastwards during the evening, with some heavy bursts possible.

Highest temperatures of 10°C to 13°C in moderate to fresh south to southeast winds.

In the news

  • Problems with rodents have led to the closure of Delvin Mart canteen.
  • Information leaflets on new EID tagging regulations are to be sent out with Sheep and Goat Census forms.
  • Concerns mount as the clock continues to countdown to March 2019, when the UK is expected to have an approved exit plan in place and Theresa May has deferred a Brexit vote in the Commons.
  • Patrick Hurley of Carhoogarriffe, Leap, Co Cork, appeared at Kenmare District Court last week, accused of stealing cash from a 93-year-old Kenmare man.
  • The new assistant principal in Kildalton qualified in Wales and previously held the role of lecturer in dairy production.
    Vet practice pulled up for supplying ‘unauthorised’ products
    The veterinary practice has been issued with an improvement notice for the wholesale selling of unauthorised veterinary medicinal products.

    The Ballygawley Veterinary Clinic in Northern Ireland has been issued with an improvement notice after being found to be contravening a number of regulations.

    The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) in the UK stated that it had found the practice to be supplying unauthorised veterinary medicine.

    There were no Republic of Ireland farms involved in the notice

    The VMD stated it had discovered: “Wholesale dealing of unauthorised veterinary medicinal products to other veterinary practice premises without a wholesale dealer's licence.”

    The practice had also been found to be supplying farms with veterinary medicine without sufficient evidence that the animals were under the care of vets or that a clinical assessment of the animals had been carried out.

    Although there had been some concern that sales of unauthorised veterinary products were travelling south of the border, a spokesperson for the VMD stated: “I can confirm that there were no Republic of Ireland farms involved in the notice concerning Ballygawley Veterinary Clinic.”


    The VMD stated that a number of improvements needed to be made by the practice.

    All wholesale activities must cease and all supplies of Singvac and Botulism Vaccine must have a valid special treatment certificate and must only be supplied to the named farm with the volume stated on the certificate.

    “All supplies must cease until such time as procedures have been implemented to ensure that all supplies occur in accordance with the certificates,” the VMD stated.

    Adequate records must be put in place to show that antibiotics prescribed to animals were needed, according to the VMD.

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