Financial and environmental success for Climate Change Focus Farms

by Search Gate staff. Published Wed 06 Nov 2013 14:32
Success for eco farming trial in Scotland

Climate friendly farming methods can save farmers money and help them reduce their carbon footprint.

Scotland’s first three Climate Change Focus Farms have saved almost £60,000 between them over the past three years and two of the businesses reduced their carbon footprint by at least 10 per cent.

The sites were selected in 2010 as part of the Scottish Government’s Farming for a Better Climate programme. The farms and their results are:

* Torr Farm, Auchencairn, Castle Douglas. The dairy business saved around £37,000 and reduced its carbon footprint by 11 per cent

* Glenkilrie Farm, Blairgowrie. This upland livestock farm saved around £11,000 and reduced its carbon footprint by 10 per cent

* Stewart Tower Farm, Stanley, Perthshire. The mixed dairy farm followed a reduced programme to the other focus farms and saved around £10,000 and while it experienced a 5% rise in its carbon footprint due to increased livestock numbers, increased feed and exceptional weather, reductions in the farm’s carbon footprint are expected in the next reporting and subsequent years

The fourth focus farm – Upper Nisbet in the Borders – still has one year left of the trial to run with results expected in 2014.

The programme was delivered by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and a new group of farmers will be selected in due course to carry on the initiative.

On a visit to Stewart Tower Farm, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “These are excellent results from our Focus Farms and very encouraging as we aim to help the industry contribute towards Scotland’s national emission reduction targets.

“We know that our climate is changing and we must be ready to face and adapt to the important challenges ahead. By using the best science available to us and giving farmers the tools and skills to meet them, we will ensure a sustainable future for the industry.

“What we have here is good examples of how low carbon farming can benefit the livelihoods of farmers and still maintain a healthy business. They have made simple changes, recorded financial savings and have continued to operate in a competitive industry. Based on these findings we will look how a contribution to climate mitigation could be delivered as part of CAP Greening.

“I hope other farmers across Scotland will look at this programme and consider how they can implement similar practices on their land and play their part in lowering the country’s carbon footprint overall.”

Rebecca Audsley, Farming for a Better Climate Project facilitator said: “The project has shown that even already technically efficient farmers can identify scope for efficiency savings and in doing so, reduce their carbon footprint.

“Taking a back to basics approach with measures like cutting energy bills, improving soil structure and fertility to boost yields or tweaks to livestock management, as demonstrated by Ross, David and Neil over the course of the initiative, could help you to save money and put your farm in a better shape to deal with unexpected and unseasonal weather patterns we have all experienced of late.”

And David Houston from Glenkilrie Farm added: “This programme has made me think a bit more about where we can make efficiency savings. Quite a number of little changes have been made over the last three years and once added together they make quite a saving in both financial and environmental terms. I will definitely continue with changes made so far which have proven beneficial to my business whilst also looking for other areas where improvements can be made.”

Ross Paton from Torr Farm said: “Being involved with the Farming for a Better Climate initiative has focused our minds on mitigating climate change and being aware of the wide range of practices which affect emissions – it’s not just about fuel and energy usage”

Neil Butler, Stewart Tower Farm, commented: “We were already focusing on some of the areas that have been brought up in the project, for example we have a carbon footprint as part of our milk contract with Sainsbury’s. The initiative helped us to build on this and look at other areas where we could make a change.

“For example using less fertiliser and increasing clover in grass has had a benefit and is something that everyone can consider and adapt depending on their individual circumstances. One of the things that comes out of these projects is that the cumulative benefits add up, not only for the individual farm but if all farmers were to take up similar measures, could show a significant reduction in emissions from agricultural activities across Scotland.”

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