After the first audit, Edinvale farm committed to audit annually, and to report findings openly:
“We were able to see how things are changing over a period of time – and they have changed a lot from our first audit to where we are now”, Jock says. “We’ve almost doubled our numbers on a similar amount of ground utilised, with changing the nutritional practices, but with different outputs. When we first started, a lot of the stock, especially heifer cows, were being retained for breeding stock. From an environmental point of view, a carbon calculation point of view, that is a nightmare because your output goes down, you’ve got all these animals that are contributing. Now that we’re seeing a much bigger output, we’re seeing a much bigger return.
“Over time, the results have improved greatly: when we first started, our carbon emissions per kilo of dead weight produced was twice the global average. Now, we’re seeing a carbon emission per kilo of output at a third of where we were. I think you need to look at that metric in conjunction with other things, it’s a dangerous metric to look at on its own. But it’s a very useful metric, nonetheless. It’s nice that we were getting that down to a manageable level.”
Edinvale farm recently got accredited for “Pasture for Life”: all their beef cattle and other animals are 100% grass and forage fed, having to be quite careful as to what else in terms of animal feeds is applied. Hence, no methane inhibitors.
The farm employs other mitigation measures to offset the carbon emissions: planting trees and hedges, efficient management of soils and grass – those measures are currently a road better taken when it comes to finances:
“I very much see a carbon audit as something that should sit alongside your set of accounts, and I think if you see where you’re going slightly off course in your carbon audit, you’re probably spending too much money as well”, Jock says.
“There is an obvious correlation between the farm carbon audit and the things that cause most pain. At the moment that is what can be done about the fertiliser bill? It’s also one of the things that kills your carbon audit. So you then ask yourself a question: it’s painful here [fertiliser] and it’s painful there [carbon audit], why are we doing it?
“Your next question, then, is can we do without it? And you’re solving two problems; you might be creating a third, [laughs], which you need to be aware of, but at least it’s something that’s maybe within your control. We’ve achieved a 57% reduction in N2O emissions by using less fertiliser and using it more efficiently. And it’s about using all these tools, whether it’s a carbon audit, whether it’s your set of accounts, whether is your biodiversity audit, to find the bits you can control, and identify the bits that cause pain. And try and get them out of the system.”