A new study from McDonald's UK has identified six simple measures that can help beef farmers reduce their carbon footprint and save up to £23,000 (€29,144) in the process.
The study, based on over 1,300 carbon assessments, was carried out with UK and Irish beef farms.
It reveals that on average beef farmers in the study have reduced their carbon footprint by 4.6% a year by making small day to day changes to the way they run their businesses - more than four times the current industry benchmark of 0.94%.
Farmers who participated in the study reduced their carbon footprint by nearly a quarter (23%) over six years and identified annual cost savings of up to £23,000.
Six key recommendations are outlined for all farm types that can help beef farmers realise these potential savings, as well as a more detailed analysis for different farm types and systems:
1.Measure and monitor your farm operation to track performance
From feed use per animal to fertiliser usage and sales weight, data trends can help to track progress and identify areas for improvement.
2. Benchmark performance against others in your sector
Benchmarking against others can help farmers to review their operations, identify which parts of their enterprise they could adjust to improve efficiency, and set targets.
3.Focus on daily live weight gain to reduce emissions
On a typical beef farm the majority of carbon emissions come from the animals.
Daily live weight gain is important because the shorter the time the cattle are on the farm the less carbon is produced.
4.Monitor and improve animal health
Closer monitoring of animal health not only safeguards the welfare of the herd, it also reduces calf mortality and leads to increased farm productivity to offset the carbon emissions of the enterprise.
5.Maximise homegrown forage
Direct emissions from feed production represent a high proportion of farm carbon emissions.
By using home-grown forage farms have the opportunity to increase their feed conversion efficiency.
6.Reduce calving interval
Farmers should breed for fertility in suckler herds, ensure close heat management and look to achieve the optimum age at first calving to reduce total methane emissions during the heifer rearing phase.
Connor McVeigh, Supply Chain Director, McDonald’s UK said that carbon reduction targets have been in place for some time and McDonald's knows farmers are under growing pressure to meet them.
"The question has been what practical steps can we as an industry take to drive these improvements?
"As one of the biggest customers of British and Irish farming, we want to help the sector meet these challenges and thrive in the future.
"That’s why we commissioned one of the largest ever independent carbon studies carried out directly with beef farmers in the UK and Ireland to provide practical advice and guidance that can help farmers to become more sustainable and profitable."