There is plenty of work to be done on reducing the carbon footprint of agriculture in this country.

Many winter milk purchasers have set targets to reduce the carbon footprint of milk by 20% to 30% by 2030 and to net zero by 2050.

Winter milk producers traditionally use more concentrates than spring milk herds and this can contribute to an increased carbon footprint.

Research at Teagasc has been examining how to improve the carbon footprint of winter milk production and one method being investigated is to replace imported protein in feed with homegrown protein.

Standard feed

The two diets were fed in Teagasc Johnstown Castle. The first diet was a standard feed, which includes soya bean and distillers' dried grains. The homegrown feed included rapeseed meal and faba beans.

Lifecycle assessments were carried out for both systems.

It was found that the milk produced from the animals on the homegrown protein diet had a carbon footprint 32% lower than the standard diet, which contained imported protein.

It should be noted that the animals on the homegrown protein did produce slightly less. Milk yield per cow was down 2%.


However, Teagasc has noted that “the reduction in milk yield and revenue associated with switching from imports to homegrown feeds may be avoidable through precision nutrition or by using sustainably produced feedstuffs”.

Teagasc added that reducing yield or changing to more sustainably produced feed may come at a cost, so producers are unlikely to take this cost without compensation payments for reducing carbon emissions.