If someone had mentioned monitoring the methane emitted by cattle a decade ago, many folk would have laughed at the idea – but moving with the times, that measurement is now being undertaken by ABP's research farm, Bromstead, based in Shropshire.

This 152.6 hectare beef and arable unit is run by farm manager, Andrew Macleod, bringing in 120 calves at 16 weeks of age every three months, allows them to be killed at 20-months-old, taking a whole farm approach from the animal right through to grazing systems and regenerative protocols, through feed efficiency trials measuring methane to help benefit the industry.

"Until now the beef industry has been on the back foot, defending claims from climate activists about its impact on the environment, " said Mr Macleod, who weighs the cattle weekly and monitors them daily by applying the latest genetic research. "The aim of the trials is to provide much-needed evidence around carbon sequestration and methane emissions to enable farmers to talk positively about the industry."

The Bromstead research includes wearable devices to measure and filter methane on individual animals, such as ZELP – Zero Emissions Livestock Project – masks, which is part of a two-year project. The masks capture, store and neutralise methane, and preliminary trials at Reading University show they can reduce methane emissions by 50%.

The farm is also taking part in the Green Feed chamber, which will monitor methane emissions from each cow as it eats from the bespoke feed bin.

"We need to identify the role that grass species and diet play in methane production, as well as enabling the team to determine which bulls produce progeny with lower methane emissions," added Mr Macleod, who explained that data on feed intakes, growth rates and health traits was being recorded on AgriWebb, along with carcass performance at slaughter. This was then fed back into sires’ estimated breeding values (EBVs).

Read more: Funding for methane capture system in SRUC's 'GreenShed'

"Heavier animals create more carbon foot print, but we need a carbon tool that is standardised throughout the industry to get all farmers involved in recording," he said. "Results are showing a big indicator to be the genetics of the animal."

The use of the automated grading technique Visual Image Analysis in ABP’s slaughterhouse helps provide objective carcass grades, day in, day out, to add to the robust dataset.

"If you don't record data you can't measure your performance, so we urgently ask all farmers to at least start recording your data," added Dean Holroyd, group technical and sustainability director at ABP.

"The main objective is to improve sustainability of our beef product, but we can't do this on our own. By recording methane we can show that eating red meat has so many benefits and it is not bad for you."