Sir, – In response to the article by Jim Brown in his Farm View column in The Scottish Farmer, November 27, I think that I may have the answers to Jim’s questions: “Are we facing food shortages” and “If emissions are to be reduced, how is it to be done other than removing all stock and letting it run wild”.

Both of these questions have the same answer. Climate change, Brexit and the move towards a carbon neutral society is changing how we do things.

The Scottish livestock industry is in a position to make a significant contribution in helping Scotland meet its climate ambitions. A group of innovative farmers and soil micro-biologists are showing us the way.

They are farming with massively reduced fertiliser usage and are producing healthy nutrient dense food with no loss of production and are more profitable as a result. They view soil as a biological eco-system and treat it as such, livestock are also an integral part of this equation.

As soil fertility increases, so does its ability to safely store carbon, which means that farmers could potentially draw down more carbon dioxide than they would need to cancel out their own emissions – and have some to spare.

All we have to do is copy the blue-print already in place and tailor it to suit our individual farms. The end result could be a sustainable, profitable and carbon neutral food industry that also mitigates climate change.

The other question: “How are emissions measured in a simple way”. All manufacturing processes create CO2e (carbon dioxide emissions) and are allocated an average emissions footprint. For example, when one litre of diesel is burned it creates 2.64kg of CO2e; when NPK is manufactured, it creates four tonnes of CO2e; to generate 1kW hour of electricity creates 650g of CO2e – then add to this the CO2 ‘cost’ of compound feeds, haulage etc.

The calculation for diesel would be: Litres of diesel used x 2.64 = CO2e.

Farm methane emissions are difficult to measure, mostly due to every system being different, although this will probably not hinder the calculation of emissions for long. Slurry emits on average 13g of methane per kg of volatile solids and a cow is estimated to produce 200kg of methane in a year.

Frank Smith