SCOTLAND AND Ireland could 'significantly' reduce ruminant greenhouse gas emissions by promoting sustainable and resilient pasture-based livestock production systems.

This was the topic of discussion at a joint Teagasc and SRUC conference which took place in Dublin last Friday, examining the key challenges facing the livestock sectors in Ireland and Scotland.

‘Rural Futures II: Towards Sustainable Solutions for Ruminant Pastoral Agricultural Systems in Scotland and Ireland' - was the theme underpinning the conference.

Individuals gathered to hear how innovative livestock production systems could contribute to food security and healthy diets; develop more efficient agriculture; support livestock farmers to be profitable and competitive; and underpin the revitalisation of rural areas in both countries.

Friday's conference addressed the major environmental, consumer and economic challenges facing pasture-based livestock systems in Scotland and Ireland, in particular, options for creating sustainable and resilient pasture-based livestock production systems that can help mitigate GHG emissions and adapt to a changing climate, while continuing to provide food and nutrition security.

Speaking at the conference, Teagasc director, Professor Gerry Boyle, said: “In the context of the debate on the long-term sustainability of our food and farming systems, the environmental impacts of current livestock production systems and the human health and nutritional benefits of livestock products are coming under increasing scrutiny. While being fully aware of the urgent need to address these large-scale challenges right throughout the livestock food chain from production to consumption, it is also important to recognise that livestock plays a positive role in providing high-quality protein, minerals, vitamins and other essential nutrients in the human diet, as well as other essential environmental, economic and social roles in a variety of farming systems throughout the world.”

Chief executive officer of SRUC, Professor Wayne Powell, said: “There are opportunities to further improve the sustainability of livestock systems, improving the efficiency of conversion of feed into protein, together with understanding the breeding and genomics of feed conversion efficiency.

"Together these hold considerable promise to reduce significantly ruminant GHG emissions and enhance the vibrancy of the pastoral economy in both Ireland and Scotland. There is an opportunity for both countries to showcase the potential of livestock as a cornerstone of an agri-food circular economy that has both the consumer and environment at its heart," he concluded.