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Livestock production needs ‘moonshot’ approach

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By Fiona Reid
Farming
Livestock production needs ‘moonshot’ approach

SCOTLAND should adopt a ‘moon shot’ approach to innovation in livestock production to make the most of huge potential rewards in sustainability and growth for the rural economy.

Professor Wayne Powell, principal of the SRUC’s Barony campus, says Scotland is in a uniquely strong position to use targeted innovation informed by strong collaboration between academia, businesses, government and communities to shape a high value food production sector that is “environmentally sustainable for landscapes, rewarding for farmers, beneficial for consumers and supportive of national and international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.

In his latest blog post, Prof Powell, pictured, says the development and refinement of animal feed supplements, investment in selective breeding programmes and better use of technology to capture livestock emissions, such as SRUC’s GreenShed project, all have a vital role to play.

He writes: “We have the means to achieve low or even zero-carbon meat at considerable scale and in ways that put Scotland in pole position to develop a new and exceptionally valuable market in the food supply chain. As we do so there will inevitably be trade-offs that need careful management, including higher input costs for farmers and fewer animals overall in the food supply chain.

“Yet we need to be canny enough to appreciate that food produced to exacting environmental standards can be sold to consumers at a significant premium as compared with animals with lower welfare standards. New systems of sustainable farm monitoring accreditation will be needed. In practice farmers should be able to achieve the same or better returns from smaller herds, freeing up land for biodiversity or other forms of food production alongside low intensity animal husbandry.”

Professor Powell adds: “The challenge is for the academic community to redouble our efforts to work with and support businesses, policy makers and communities across Scotland to seize the opportunity in a concerted manner.

“Together we can adopt a ‘moon shot’ approach to rapidly developing and refining livestock production that reaps huge environmental and economic rewards for Scotland in the years ahead.”

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