Responding to the challenge of reducing carbon dioxide and other GHG emissions is possibly the biggest issue to face livestock producers for many years, according to Dr Phil Holder from ED&F Man.

While measurement is key to the management of emission reduction, there is still a substantial number of carbon calculators available for use on farm.

Farmers are very good at responding to challenges and with good science and good research they will be able to reduce emissions, but do we need so many calculators? It seems there is no ownership of the whole carbon measurement arena at the moment.

I think there is a real danger that if the industry does not take ownership of the problem, then others will try to do so. It is probable that they will know the industry less well and may not do the best job for agriculture.

“Certain groups will use the environment as a tool against the animal production industry and we have to remember the fundamental point is that after taking actions to mitigate emissions, farms have to be profitable.”

He stresses that mitigation measures have to be cost-effective, easy to implement, practical and improve resilience. Measurement of emission levels and the progress in reducing them at an individual farm level will be crucial. While good housekeeping and improving efficiency will make some improvement, we need funding to allow research to plug gaps in our knowledge and continue to drive reduction.

“To date it is the more progressive farms who have engaged with carbon audits. They will already have addressed the low hanging fruit and we need to be able to help them make further progress.” He comments that only a small proportion of farmers have engaged with carbon reduction so far, suggesting that having too many calculators could be part of the problem.