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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Bord Bia to commence carbon footprinting sheep farms

Bord Bia will begin carbon footprinting Quality Assured Irish sheep farms for the first time.

It will calculate the Lamb Carbon Footprint using data provided by farmers through a newly developed sustainability survey, which farmers will be requested to complete before their audit.

Carbon footprinting Bord Bia

The state agency is piloting the survey on a small number of farms in the coming weeks. It will become a requirement for all sheep farmers undergoing a Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS) audit later this year.

Farmers will be asked to complete the survey before their audit. However, the audit’s requirements will not change.

The carbon footprint will be calculated as a kilo of CO2-equivalent per kilo of live weight lamb.

Bord Bia already calculates the carbon footprint of Quality Assured beef and dairy farms. 285,000 carbon assessments have been conducted on Irish beef and dairy farms since 2011.

Capture carbon emission data on 12,000 farms

Commenting ahead of the roll-out, Deirdre Ryan, Director of Origin Green & Sustainable Assurance, said:

“Our unique national infrastructure, through the Sustainable Assurance Schemes, allows Bord Bia to access and quantify the environmental performance of Irish beef and dairy farms at scale.”

“We can now capture carbon emission data on approximately 12,000 Quality Assured sheep farms, adding further proof points to the sustainability story of Irish farming in our export markets.”

In tandem with carbon assessments commencing on member farms, Bord Bia aims to increase membership of the Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme among Irish sheep farmers.

Deirdre Ryan added: “While sheep farmer participation in the scheme increased marginally last year, our long-term goal is to raise participation in line with other sectors such as dairy and beef.”

“This is necessary to future-proof the sheep sector by enhancing its marketability, sustainability, and global reputation.”

“We welcome new members all-year-round, and the scheme is evolving to provide more guidance to farmers in relation to sustainability.”

Sustainability survey

The survey is similar to the sustainability survey completed by beef and dairy farms but is tailored for sheep enterprises.

The survey will take approximately 10-20 minutes to complete. It can be completed online at, or over the phone (Bord Bia Helpdesk: 01 524 0410).

Alternatively, farmers can complete a paper form and return it by post.

Survey components:

The survey comprises just over two pages and is divided into eight parts:

  • 1 – Enterprise information: This section asks farmers to describe the type of sheep farming they undertake, e.g. lowland or hill; lamb to store, store to slaughter, and their dominant lambing season.
  • 2 – Housing: This short section asks farmers to indicate if animals are housed or outdoors year-round, and provide dates for housing and turnout periods.
  • 3 – Production: This section requests information on average weight and age at sale or slaughter for any stock sold the previous year.
  •  4 – Animal numbers: This section requires a little more detail concerning flock numbers, weight and age at lambing of ewes, lamb weaning weights, and stores purchased and sold.
  • 5 – Fertiliser: Farmers are asked to give the quantity of fertiliser applied, if any.
  • 6 & 7Silage and purchased forage: Farmers are asked to input the quantity of forage cut or purchased; this could be numbers of silage bales or tonnage of silage or other forage.
  • 8Feed: The final section asks the farmer to provide the average quantity of compound ration and/or straights fed to their flock, based upon kg per animal per day.

Beef and dairy sustainability survey

Finally, the sustainability survey completed by beef and dairy farmers is set for a revamp based upon feedback from members.

Additional options will be included for fertiliser usage such as Urea + NBPT (Urease Inhibitor) for farmers applying protected Urea.

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