27th October 2023

AF Changemaker: Supplying a lower carbon footprint to farms

We are G L W Feeds and in 2024 the business be 150 years old. We manufacture about 250,000 tonnes of compounds, about 30,000 tonnes of blended feeds, and then we trade about another 140,000 tonnes of straight feeds. On top of that, we’ve got our own performance product line.

What changes are you making?

We are trying to calculate our carbon footprint. We’ve joined the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) Global Feed Life Cycle Analysis Institute (GFLI) scheme which gives us a carbon footprint for the mill itself and the products we produce here. It also gives us a GFLI number for all the finished products as well. Now the target is to see how much we can reduce those numbers by.

We’re just installing a combined heat and power unit which will allow us to generate our own electricity and help reduce the carbon footprint from power supply. On top of that, on the feed side, a lot of our raw materials are UK based and in particular the grain is local.

For most people maize is an imported product, but we now have 50% of our maize grown within a 40 mile radius of here. We’ve got a group of farmers who grow maize on contract for us and that gives us a benefit from a carbon footprint point of view.

Recently, we have entered into a joint venture with one of the biggest shippers, which gives us our own specifically sourced Canadian soya. From a GFLI point of view, this gives us a single source of soya supply. It’s shipped all on its own, so it doesn’t come within the mass balance scheme. This means the GFLI number on it is around about 1200, where most soya’s will be in excess of 5000.

From a raw material point of view, that gives us a massive advantage in carbon footprint when translating into a litre of milk or a chicken for example.

The biggest improvement on that compared to soya from other sources is the land use change that’s associated with it. There’s no land use change, deforestation of rainforests, associated with Canadian soya.

From the milk buyers’ perspective, they are looking hard at carbon footprinting on farm. So our decision really came about driven by our consumers so that we can attempt to reduce their carbon cost per litre of milk, per kilo of pulp, chicken or whatever it happens to be. And if their return is improved by what we do, then obviously that brings more loyalty to us.

What results are you seeing?

It’s early days yet. We understand from certain milk buyers that what we’re doing with the GFLI system and particularly soya is really interesting to them. On top of that, some of the niche producers in the pig and poultry world are also welcoming that as a good sales point for their retail side. It gives them some kudos, if you like, with their customers.

It’s very important for monogastrics not to lose access to soya as a protein source, and it’s important for ruminants as well. The biggest driving force for us in deciding to go down this line so that we were able to continue using soya.

What next?

Well, we want to roll the GFLI project out on as many farms as we can so we’re now going to survey a number of farmers to see how far we can go to improve their carbon footprint on farm.

We’d like to come up with a list of five key performance indicators that we can work alongside farmers to reduce their carbon footprint. They’ll be the ones with the maximum impact, for example heifer rearing systems and looking at feed, feed efficiency and protein efficiency in a bit more detail on the rations. And to do that, we’re using something called Milk Print, which gives us a figure of the kilo of CO2 equivalent per litre of milk, which then means that we are going to be able to benchmark our farmers against that.

Where we’ve got farmers that are above the national average, we can highlight that and see what they do and how they achieve their efficiency so well. At the other end of the spectrum, we will hopefully try and guide and improve some of our lower performing farms, so that GLW on farm benchmark is going to be above the national average benchmark for kilos of CO2 equivalent a litre of milk.

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