Work is underway to develop a new method of calculating greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from the Irish sheep sector.

Speaking at Tuesday night’s Teagasc sheep conference in Monaghan, Jonathan Herron of Teagasc said that the new method will be important in taking account of any improvements in the production efficiency and adoption of new technologies that reduce emissions and ensure these are included in the national GHG inventory.

The Irish sheep sector has reduced the volume of GHG emissions by over 35% since 1990, by way of breeding ewe numbers falling by over 1.6m head. Some within the industry believe that the sheep sector is immune to agriculture’s 2023 GHG reduction target of 25% on 2018 levels.

This is not surprising, given the focus of discussions has to-date centred largely on the dairy and beef sectors. Emissions from the sheep sector compare favourably to both these sectors, with the national average figure of 10.8kg CO2 approximately 10% lower than the global average figure.

However, Herron said the reality is that emissions have crept up slightly since 2018, based on ewe numbers, and the sheep sector will need to contribute to the overall emissions reduction target.

He highlighted that a combination of reducing reliance on concentrate feed, the adoption of protected urea, a reduction in N fertiliser through the incorporation of white clover swards and an improvement in mortality and weaning rates can reduce GHG emissions by 9.7%, while increasing carcase output from 237kg to 255kg.