Carbon event a hit with farmers

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Jason Ball explained what Sheepdrove is doing about its carbon footprint

Farming Futures today held their very first Carbon Footprint workshop focussed on cattle and sheep farming. Hosted at Sheepdrove Eco Conference Centre, twenty four delegates attended the event, organised in partnership with EBLEX and NFU.

The first speaker was Dr Jonathan Scurlock, chief renewables adviser at the National Farmer’s Union, who arrived in a car running partly on UK biodiesel. The Peugeot 308, a HDi diesel, can run without modification on a 30 per cent blend of biodiesel with mineral diesel, known as B30. Peugeot claims that operation on this fuel leads to around 20 per cent further reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions, bringing the net emissions from the Peugeot 308 to below 100g CO2/km

“We may already be in a Peak Oil situation,” Dr Scurlock said. He summarised the key reasons why Carbon Footprints are important to farmers as Climate Change, Energy Security, Food Security, and the emerging need for businesses to show good Carbon Footprint performance to their customers. 

Dr Liz Genever, from the English Beef and Lamb Executive, presented advice on how cattle and sheep farmers could maximise productivity and minimise methane belched out by their livestock. As ruminants, these animals rely on microbes in their multi-pocket stomach to convert their fibrous food into something their body can use. Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, is a product of these essential symbiotic helpers.

Farmers can influence the greenhouse effect of their livestock by good soil and grassland management (grazing being the most eco-friendly method to feed sheep and cattle), reducing concentrates and extra feeds with heavy carbon footprints, good breeding, and by sending stock to market before they enter the slowest growing phases, when the animals are less efficient at converting food into flesh.

Dr Genever spoke in defence of British beef and lamb, the target for critics who point out the importance of ruminant methane on a global scale. Celebrity veggie Paul McCartney is one of those who have urged people to eat less meat. (What’s Sheepdrove’s suggestion? Click here.)

“We do need to put this in perspective,” she said, “a kilo of lamb only has a carbon footprint equivalent to driving about 36 miles in a car.”

Sheepdrove Organic Farm is taking seriously the challenge to shrink its Carbon Footprint. Jason Ball, our Manager for Biodiversity and Alternative Energy, led a farm walk to show everyone some of the actions we have taken, and after lunch presented pie-charts and tables to show how Sheepdrove could cut its energy-related Carbon Footprint by over 40%.

“The most important first step is to monitor energy use, reduce it and become more energy-efficient.” explained Jason, “Now we are working to replace fossil fuels with a range of low-carbon alternatives, such as a Solar Tracker to generate power, a micro-scale windmill to power a gate and a wood-fired boiler to heat our new chick nurseries. The ideal is to create renewable energy on the farm, to make ourselves more self-sufficient.”

One of the less obvious ways that the farm has lightened its carbon Footprint is through treating and recycling water ecologically with its reedbed system. A series of specially designed habitats clean over 7 million litres of waste water annually, saving over 3 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year.

The most delicious way we are able to reduce climate impact is in the welcoming atmosphere of Sheepdrove Eco Conference Centre, where we provide freshly made food for each occasion. You can’t get much more local, seasonal or organic than our home-grown cuisine! Today’s delegates enjoyed an organic barbecue with onion tart, leaf salad and couscous, followed by the first of the season’s STRAWBERRIES in a delightful sponge.

Sustainable lunchtime - you don't get much more local, seasonal or organic than Sheepdrove

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