Exploring the emissions intensity of Scottish sheep and cattle livestock farms

Research output: Book/Report/Policy Brief/Technical BriefCommissioned report

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At an absolute level the Scottish Government has a requirement to meet Net Zero Carbon by 2045. Whilst most production activities produce greenhouse gases, emissions intensity is a way to explore how emissions relate to these activities. Lower emissions intensity in farming helps to support progress towards Net Zero carbon agriculture. However, farms in Scotland operate across a diverse set of biophysical, climatic and economic constraints.
The purpose of this brief is to measure emissions intensity and compare these with estimates of farm-level technical efficiency, which reflects decision making at the farm level. We utilise a pilot study linking farms in the Scottish Farm Business Survey to SAC's Agrecalc carbon calculator for the crop year 2019/2020. We focus on beef and sheep-meat sectors which is the most common enterprise across Scotland.
Overall we find a high level of variance in emissions intensity in our beef and sheep farms, with a number of very high and very low emitters operating in cattle and sheep farms. Whilst we focus on gross emissions - those which relate to direct agricultural activity - but also measure net emissions and find the specialist sheep farms tend to have higher proportions of emissions sequestered, predominantly due to farm woodland. The relationship between farm-level technical efficiency and emissions intensity differs between farm types. With a higher amount of variance in emissions intensity attributable to specialist sheep farms compared to cattle or mixed farms. For these farms herd-level factors, such as breed and age structure will also be an important component of emissions intensity.
Understanding where farms are with respect to emissions intensity helps to appreciate their capacity to adopt more efficient and sustainable practices and new production technologies. Moreover it provides an exercise in understanding how we can approach measurement of emissions intensity to support progress in reporting and monitoring within Scottish farming.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
Publication statusPrint publication - 22 Mar 2022


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