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13.05.15 Farming for a better climate – the Scottish project showing increased profits and lower emissions

13th May 2015

So the last initiative that we will be looking at during this (slightly elongated!) monthly theme of global emissions, is the Farming For a Better Climate project from Scotland.  

The project is run by the Scottish Rural University College (now called SRUC, formally SAC) on behalf of the Scottish government and provides practical help and advice to Scottish farmers to help them choose the most relevant measures to improve both their farm performance, and resilience to future climate change effects.

The project runs climate change focus farms which aim to look at the effects to the farm business of implementing some of the practices that are recommended to reduce emissions.  Working from a body of academic research and on-farm results, the project has come up with five key areas to consider where most farms can benefit from, without any loss of productivity.

Use Electricity and Fuels efficiently


The aim is to ensure that farm equipment, vehicles and buildings are using energy and fuel as efficiently as possible.  Using less fossil fuel means lower energy bills and fewer emissions.

How to do it

Monitor and record fuel use, conduct a farm electricity and fuel audit.  This will highlight which activities are costing you money.  

What are the real farm results?

Dairy farm Ross Paton saved nearly £2,000 on the farm electricity bill and £6,600 on farm diesel through simple tweaks to current practices.  Beef and sheep farmer David Houston saved around £450 just from reducing the daily running time of the feed mixer.

Locking carbon into the farm


Through slight adaptations to current practices, farms are in a good position to lower their carbon footprint and lock carbon into the soil and vegetation, a process called carbon sequestration.

How to do it

Take action to control soil erosion

Consider reduced tillage on suitable land and ploughing in stubble and crop residues

Manage existing woodlands and consider new planting schemes

Retain and conserve semi-natural grasslands.

Develop renewable energy on-farm


Renewable energy can boost farm incomes and secure a source of power for the future.


Consider if your farm is suitable for any renewable energy technology including solar, wind, hydro, anaerobic digestion or heat pumps.

Real farm results

Electricity use in the dairy, ice cream parlour and farm shop at Stewart Tower accounted for ~130,000kWh per year.  Conservative estimates by farmer Neil Butler suggested that the 100kW wind turbine would produce over 200,000 kWh per year.  If half of that was used in the farm shop and dairy, savings on the electricity bill would be in the region of £12,000 per year.

Making the best of nutrients


To make the best use of nutrients and manures on the farm and reduce emissions.

Better targeting of fertilisers can cut waste and improve profits.  For the majority it will not be practical or economic to replace all fertilisers with manures and slurries but the aim should be to make maximum use of the manures and slurries that are available on-farm.

How to do it

Soil testing will help you know pH and nutrient status of soils and adjust fertiliser and lime accordingly

Know nutrient value of manures and slurries

Apply fertiliser at the optimum rate and time for the crop

Real farm data

Each 10m3 tanker of dairy slurry could equate to the equivalent of £30 – 50 worth of fertiliser.

Optimising Livestock Management


To ensure efficient management of livestock and poultry and their manure.  This can significantly reduce GHG emissions and improve farm profitability.


Draw up and regularly review animal health plans

Increase longevity of breeding stock – which will result in a higher output per breeding unit

Improve efficiency of feed conversion; achieve optimum daily liveweight gain

Increase efficiency in fertility

Consider slurry and manure management

Real farm data

By making good quality silage and knowing its feed value, Ross Paton at Torr Farm was able to reduce 1kg concentrate per dairy cow per day over the housed period.  Over the typical winter, this saved 32 tonnes of concentrate which would have cost the business £10,355 and reduced the farm carbon footprint.

This project is doing great stuff in Scotland and putting some much needed farm data onto the recommended management.  Later this week I’ll post the links to a couple of the farm case studies that have reduced emissions and improved profits, the ideal win-win that we all aspire to!

To read more about the project please click here