The Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) has said that shortening the life of beef cattle in Northern Ireland to 24 months would be "counter-productive" in terms of reducing emissions.

RBST is the sole charity dedicated to promoting and preserving the UK's rare and native breeds of farm livestock.

Since 1973, the group has monitored animal numbers, inbreeding and geographical concentration.


The public consultation period on the Future Agricultural Policy for Northern Ireland is set to close tomorrow (Tuesday, February 15, 2022).

Northern Ireland Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots has described it as “the most important agricultural consultation in a generation” and said that “it’s vital that those with an interest have their say”.

In its submission on the policy, the RBST called on the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to scrap its proposal to shorten the life of all beef cattle to a maximum of 24 months.

The charity said that "the policy would be counter-productive to its [DAERA's] aim of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from beef production".

RBST said that the age limit "will discourage farming with the slow-growing native cattle breeds which produce high quality beef to high environmental standards".

Commenting on the submission, RBST CEO Christopher Price said: “We are fully supportive of the ambition to reduce GHG emissions from farming and we urge DAERA to recognise that native cattle breeds have a vital role to play in a more sustainable future for farming and the environment in Northern Ireland."

Price outlined that breeds like the Irish Moiled "bring together commercial viability with environmental value" and support biodiversity through conservation grazing.

"They are slow-growing breeds and an obligatory slaughter limit of 24 months does not suit this type of farming. If we lose our native breeds, we lose all their genetic and natural capital value too," he added.

“In a future where people are eating less but better meat, slow-grown native breeds are the obvious choice for consumers wanting high quality local produce coming from animals which have been kept to high welfare standards on minimal inputs.

"DAERA should encourage this direction of travel as a more effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, rather than blocking it with a one-size-fits-all 24 month rule," Price commented.

In its consultation response, RBST also raises concerns about the welfare and ethical issues associated with high growth rates and early slaughter.