Major fund launched to research sustainable Welsh beef and sheep farming

As climate change and environmental issues continue to rise in the public’s consciousness, red meat body Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) – is helping fund a major piece of research at Bangor University.

This will help the Welsh lamb and beef sectors in their bid to lead the world in terms of sustainable farming.

Applications are now open for three fully-funded PhD scholarships, part of the European Social Fund’s KESS 2 programme, which enables universities and industries to collaborate in supporting research of strategic significance for vital economic sectors.

The three researchers, who will be supported by senior academics including Dr. Prysor Williams, will focus on:

  • Meeting environmental targets while maintaining profitability for the beef and sheep sectors of Wales;
  • Strategies for meeting targets for ammonia emissions and nitrate leaching reduction for Welsh beef and sheep farms; and
  • Strategies to reach zero carbon sheep and beef production on Welsh farms.

The same funding source will also support a PhD studentship at Bangor on ‘Determining the potential for precision grazing to improve the resilience of livestock production systems’.

HCC’s industry development manager John Richards explained that the red meat board had already launched a programme to make the consumer aware of the low environmental impact of sheep and beef production in Wales when compared to other parts of the world, and that this research would help to drive further improvements.

“Consumers want to know that the meat they buy is farmed to high standards – in terms of animal welfare and traceability, and increasingly in terms of environmental sustainability,” said John.

Wales already has a powerful and positive message, with sheep and cattle here being overwhelmingly reared in free-range, non-intensive systems which rely on natural grass and water, producing fewer emissions than many other farming systems around the globe.

He added: “International research such as the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report on global land use identifies an important role for sustainable livestock farming as part of the answer to climate change and food security.

“The future of Welsh farming depends on the sector being able to convey to the public that we already have an excellent good story to tell, and demonstrate that we’re doing everything to reduce emissions even further, and farm in the most environmentally-responsible way.”

Real scientific value

Prysor Williams noted: “We are delighted to be working so closely with HCC over the next three to four years through the KESS 2 programme.

“These projects will have real scientific value, and of course be of real benefit to the red meat sector, consumers and the environment in Wales – identifying real ‘win–wins’ for all. We look forward to receiving applications for these exciting positions.”

HCC has co-funded several PhD studentships with a number of academic institutions, as part of its wider programme of research and development activity aimed at bringing practical benefits to farming and processing in Wales.

These opportunities are supported by European Social Funds (ESF) through the Welsh Government as part of the KESS 2 East programme which links companies and organisations with academic expertise in the higher education sector in Wales to undertake collaborative research projects.

Applications are open until 12:00pm on Monday, January 20, 2020.