Irish agriculture will be expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) across the entire sector but on an individual farm level, how does a farmer assess where changes, if any, are required on their farm? An important starting point is to know your farm’s carbon footprint.

As part of the Bord Bia audit process, all beef and dairy farmers must complete a sustainability survey in which they report on farm inputs and activity. This data is reported back to the farmer in a farm sustainability report, called the Farmer Feedback Report.

The report is posted to the farmer within approximately one week of certification of the audit.

It can also be downloaded from

The carbon footprint is compared to the previous audit result and the average carbon footprint of farms within the same category and size

The report provides the farmer with their farm’s carbon footprint and grass-fed calculation together with graphs and tables summarising farm management activity.

The report also includes advice based on actions set out in the Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC).

The carbon footprint is compared to the previous audit result and the average carbon footprint of farms within the same category and size.

In October 2021, all dairy carbon footprints were recalculated to a new model calculation

The Farmer Feedback Report includes the percentage share of carbon emissions on the farm by the main sources: animal digestion, manure, fertiliser, forage/feed production and miscellaneous sources such as electricity and fuel.

In October 2021, all dairy carbon footprints were recalculated to a new model calculation.

The updates introduce Irish specific emission factors and improvements in GHG emission counting.

The average SDAS Dairy CF is now 0.99kg CO2e per kg FPCM.

Signpost demo farms

Bord Bia has collaborated with Teagasc to examine the Farmer Feedback Report and carbon footprint of two Signpost farms, dairy farmers John and Brendan Walsh, and beef farmer Jarlath Ruane.

John and Brendan Walsh

Father-and-son team, John and Brendan, are milking 132 cows, achieving milk solids per cow of 539kg. John had his last audit in September 2020: “We take care in completing the sustainability survey [before the audit] because we need to ensure that we have an accurate figure for the carbon footprint to benchmark progress year on year and against other farmers.”

In John’s case, the carbon footprint was 0.79kg CO2 equivalent per kilo of fat and protein corrected milk. This is 1% lower than it was in 2019 and 19% lower than dairy farms of a similar scale.

Fifty-five per cent of the emissions on the farm are from animal digestion, which is up 2% on the previous audit. The average for dairy farms of a similar scale is 48%.

Fertiliser use contributes to 17% of emissions, compared to 16% for the average dairy farms of similar scale.

John met with his adviser Kevin Barron and programme adviser Grainne Hurley and decided on a plan of action to reduce emissions further on the farm.

Some of the actions that are currently being taken include:

  • White clover has been incorporated into the swards on the milking block. They currently have five paddocks that have received no chemical nitrogen (N) since May.
  • All slurry is spread using Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) equipment. The farm has invested in a dribble bar.
  • Protected urea fertiliser is being used on the farm.
  • Red clover has been sown on the outside blocks for silage.
  • Jarlath Ruane

    Jarlath Ruane runs a dairy calf-to-beef enterprise near Claremorris, Co Mayo. Jarlath’s footprint was 8.11kg CO2 equivalents per kilo of beef liveweight in 2020. This had not changed since 2018, but is almost 12% lower than the average for dairy calf-to-beef farms.

    Forty-eight per cent of Jarlath’s emissions come from animal digestion (methane) with 27% coming from manure, 7% from fertiliser, 3% from forage and feed and 15% coming from other activities including transport.

    The key actions that Jarlath is taking to reduce his carbon footprint include:

  • Incorporating clover into new reseeds to reduce chemical N usage.
  • Increasing usage of protected urea on-farm, replacing CAN-based products.
  • Concentrating on calf health and grassland management to increase carcase weight of each animal.
  • Putting plans in place to convert to LESS.
  • Maximising silage quality in order to reduce meal requirements of young cattle, stores and finishing cattle.
  • Signpost Programme: background

    There are 103 Signpost demonstration farmers participating in the Signpost Programme. These farms include dairy, beef, sheep and tillage farms as well as organic farms and pig farms. Signpost farmers are central to the programme and will be the early adopters of the various technologies to reduce GHG emissions from agriculture. The learnings from these farms will be communicated to all farmers through Teagasc and the programme partners. See for more information on the programme, its partners, and the demonstration farmers.

    You’ll also find a range of resources including articles, webinars, podcasts, monthly climate actions, and videos.