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A Carbon Navigator’s role on your farm

In this article, That’s Farming looks at completing a Carbon Navigator. We discuss the place of the Carbon Navigator in the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) and the future requirements for the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme.

Bord Bia and Teagasc produce the Carbon Navigator to measure environmental gains that can be made on the farm.

Objectives of the BDGP include reducing the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions by improving both the quality and emissions of the national beef herd.

Farmers participating in the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) are encouraged to complete their Carbon Navigator, should it be outstanding.

Furthermore, the Carbon Navigator is recognised as a method of measuring emissions from the national beef herd and is, therefore, a requirement of the BDGP programme.

The application can be completed online through ICBF. A common mistake for farmers is not saving their information when updating from year to year. Moreover, this is an important point to note.

Farmers involved in BDGP are required to keep a copy of what is recorded on the form for their own recording purposes.

Using the Carbon Navigator

As mentioned, you can access online, independently or with the help of your advisor.

The figures illustrated on the system will determine the current environmental performance and where potential improvements could be made.

In addition to this, the CN shows the financial profitability potential. The Carbon Navigator has two designers, the Dairy (D) Carbon Navigator and the Beef (B) Carbon Navigator.

The navigator highlights certain technologies which can reduce greenhouse gas emissions on-farm.

According to a study published by Research Gate, Ireland is recognised as a significant exporter of agricultural products, which is subject to the requirements of international markets.

These markets are increasingly requiring food which is produced sustainably. A key measure of producing sustainable food is measuring the carbon footprint.

The Carbon Navigator was developed as a joint venture between both Teagasc and Bord Bia with a simple objective: to assess technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on farms.

The collaborative approach in developing the Carbon Navigator was adopted on the strengths of all organisations to bring all system components together.

Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme

The current overarching policy objectives of Food Vision 2030 are to increase economic and environmental sustainability within the sector.

Following on from BDGP, the eligibility requirements of this scheme have been amended for the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme.

Eligibility requirements include:

  • Bord Bia SBLAS membership as the carbon footprint in the sustainability audit will be used to measure changes over the course of the contract. This must be in place prior to contract;
  • Submit a BISS application on which all their lands are declared for the duration of the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme;
  • Calve down at least 50% of the reference number of animals every year.

The introduction of the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme has appeared to eliminate the requirement for a Carbon Navigator on beef farms.

The purpose

According to Teagasc, reductions in agricultural emissions per unit of output can be achieved by improving farm efficiency.

It focuses on the six win-win efficiency measures that reduce GHG emissions and increase profit:

  • Longer grazing season;
  • Lower age at first calving;
  • Improved growth rate;
  • Increased calving rate;
  • Improved nitrogen use efficiency;
  • Improved slurry management.

These actions are all applicable to the Beef Carbon Navigator. There is a range of benefits to the extended grazing season. This includes an increased proportion of a grass-based diet, which is more digestible, leading to a reduction in methane in the form of dietary energy.

Furthermore, there is an expectation that cows are expected to produce offspring once per year. Increasing calving rates has the perception to reduce emissions.

Moreover, if you can improve the liveweight performance of an animal, then there will be a shorter lifetime to slaughter, further resulting in reducing emissions.

At present, it is is linked to the Bord Bia BLQAS database and data required for the completion of the current values is captured by BLQAS auditors during their inspection visits.

You can set targets to improve your environmental performance by working alongside a farm advisor. A key aspect is the advice on what the farmer requires in order to achieve targets.

What it is not

The Carbon Navigator, like many other online tools, is not 100% accurate, and it is not complex either.

Moreover, this tool is not considered accurate as it does not accurate for the full farm greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to this, not every farmer completes one, i.e. it is only a requirement for the beef suckler herd, and therefore creates no perspective of the rest of the Irish beef herd.

In addition to this, there are also a relatively small number of suckler farms in Ireland participating in schemes which require the Carbon Navigator.

One of the main challenges reported by Teagasc for the Carbon Navigator included getting sufficient usage of the online tool, to make a feasible impact.

Other challenges include getting supports from farmers, those within the industry, policymakers and marketing organisations.

To conclude, Irish agriculture will need to become carbon efficient through the uptake of mitigation techniques at farm level.

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