THERE seems to be no end to farmer bashing. This week we heard that a United Nations' 'think tank' wants everyone to change to a plant-based diet to defeat climate change, with the blame for global warming put firmly at the door of livestock production.

While there may be some evidence that livestock produce the so-called greenhouse gases which are claimed to effect climate change, the science on this is not one of consensus. Indeed, there are many who argue that grass-based livestock production is actually better for the environment than production of other 'crops' and that actively managed grassland is a powerful carbon sink.

While agriculture is reckoned to be responsible for 7% of UK carbon emissions, a recent EU report concluded that emissions from livestock may be responsible for around 9.1% of all emissions in the EU – higher because UK production is more efficient. And that goes some ways towards explaining why the European Commission appears to be so hot in doing livestock down. In a way, that may have been a causal effect on why many farmers voted in favour of Brexit – the danger is that we will be swapping one green-headed monster for another if the UK does not steer us gently away from EU thinking on this!

The science remains woolly on a whole range of climate change issues, but if farming is to meet the UK's Low Carbon Transition Plan emission limits by 2020, beef will require an efficiency gain equivalent to 320g per day extra growth and five extra calves per 100 cows per year and for lamb, that equates to 20% per day extra growth and 7.5 extra lambs per 100 ewes per year (AHDB figures). Both are achievable, but we must have joined up thinking to make it happen and to highlight the tweaks to breeding, feeding and management techniques which will allow it to do so.

Genetic potential is one area where modern breeding techniques could make rapid progress and there is certainly great potential in feeding and management husbandry. That latter area is one where government can help and it is high time that compulsory EID of cattle was brought in.

While it offered increased costs with minimal efficiency savings with sheep production – indeed, it was vociferously lobbied against when EID for sheep was introduced in 2010 – for cattle it is a much steadier argument and has been proven to give much tighter control of costs and performance. More importantly, when dovetailed to the BCMS database, it will provide government and the industry with a much clearer understanding of which systems, breeds and feeds work best. Allied to a fit and proper price reporting system which is universal and not the diktat of individual companies, then we really would have an industry on the move ... one that could respond more quickly to changing circumstances, trends and consumer needs.

Livestock production has a lot more to offer the world than the bleak scenario painted by the United Nations this week, not the least of which will be the benefits of biodiversity afforded by cattle and sheep, especially in the hills and glens of Scotland. Then there's the health benefits of meat in a balanced diet – something which we should be shouting from the rooftops.