Climate Change, Global Warming and the damage the human race is perceived to be doing to the environment are hot topics at the moment. Every news bulletin brings fresh images of melting ice-caps, smouldering rain forests and the all-pervasive pollution by plastics. Viewers are left feeling shock at the enormity of it all and helpless as to what they can do.

Viable farm businesses are essential to maintain rural populations and ensure the management of the countryside.
Viable farm businesses are essential to maintain rural populations and ensure the management of the countryside.

The role of food and farming is at the centre of the debate – whether it is farmers in South America wishing to turn rainforest into productive pasture or our own local beef and dairy herds contributing ammonia to the atmosphere. One of the major challenges for the world is how to support a steadily growing population while reducing the environmental impact of food production. With a growing awareness of the problems and willingness to tackle the issues there is much that can be done. 

Not all contributions are helpful however and there are always interest groups who can distort the facts to put their own particular spin on events. The vegan lobby who promote the vision of a world free of farmed animals fail to recognise the health benefits of meat in a well- balanced diet or how the rural economy and our green and pleasant landscape is sustained. The fabric of the countryside depends on farm businesses providing income for families in rural areas and giving them a livelihood in regions which would otherwise be neglected and abandoned. That these businesses are engaged in food production and are essential to provide the population with grains and vegetables – with milk, meat and eggs is not fully appreciated. The role of the farmer in managing the land and the landscape is also fundamental - maintaining wooded areas, hedgerows and waterways - managing the soil to promote carbon sequestration – developing productive grasslands and pasture based systems.

Precise rationing of protein to farm livestock can help reduce ammonia emissions to the atmosphere.
Precise rationing of protein to farm livestock can help reduce ammonia emissions to the atmosphere.

This threefold contribution of agriculture in preventing rural depopulation, maintaining the countryside and producing food is crucial in an era of increasing urbanisation and population growth. It cannot be denied however that farm practices and livestock management can have a significant influence on emissions to air and waterways. Much has been achieved through improved storage and management of farm manures and in devising feed programs and formulating diets which reduce any oversupply of nutrients which would be lost as emissions to the environment. Precision nutrition ensures optimum performance, minimal waste and boosts feed efficiency. This approach, when applied to rationing protein for example, is helping to minimise ammonia emissions and can reduce feed costs.  

Everyone has a part to play in the protection of our environment – from the consumer who opts for bio-degradable packaging to the farmer who plants trees in that awkward corner in the field - or maybe takes a second look at the protein content of his diary cow diet for this winter– along with his registered feed adviser of course.