Thanks to a 2018 carbon audit, we are quite well placed to understand our present carbon footprint and the estimated sequestration taking place due to our existing woodlands. The total farm emissions were much smaller than the woodland sequestration, rendering the farm carbon negative overall.
The baseline carbon footprint does not take account of woodland sequestration however. It is calculated as the number of kilograms of CO2e (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) produced per kilogram of output, which in this case is sheep and lambs. In 2018 Carbeth lamb had a carbon footprint of 26.79, which is favourable when compared with other producers of lamb, but still leaves room for improvement.
|Year end March 2018|
|Total farm emissions (kg CO2e)||328,824|
|Woodland sequestration (kg CO2e)||541,015|
|Net farm output* (kg)||-212,191|
|Farm carbon footprint, excluding sequestration (kg CO2e / kg output)||26.79|
The objective – reduce emissions, increase sequestration
Certain changes to the management of some of the land at Carbeth have the potential to simultaneously reduce the carbon emissions associated with the sheep, improve their welfare, increase carbon sequestration, and support greater biodiversity.
High quality forage – diverse pasture and hay meadow
Carbeth’s main source of carbon emissions (59%) is methane produced by the sheep. There is very little that can be done to reduce this other than reducing the number of sheep. Purchased feed however, represents 13% of carbon emissions. This is much higher than on some other farms who produce most of what they require on site. Reducing the area of land that is currently let out for silage cropping would allow that land to be used to grow nutrient rich grazing crops such as clover and chicory for the sheep to graze. Such crops are also beneficial to pollinators and to soil health.
Agroforestry is the practice of combining trees with agriculture (crops, livestock, or both). According to Project Drawdown, agroforestry is a powerful tool in the fight against global warming, but trees can also provide numerous other benefits:
- Sequester carbon as they grow
- Provide food and shelter to both wildlife and livestock
- Improve the structure and fertility of the soil
- Provide a valuable crop (such as fruit, nuts or timber)
Hedges and woodland
Carbeth currently boasts 6.6km of hedges and 123 acres of woodland. These are important, not only for carbon sequestration, but for biodiversity and shelter for livestock, and increasing their area would be beneficial.
There are many small ways in which the carbon footprint can be reduced, while simultaneously improving the wellbeing of the sheep and their profitability. A topic for a future blog post!