The Teagasc Sheep Life Cycle Assessment Model (LCA) model is designed for Irish sheep systems, where sheep meat is the primary product outcome. The Sheep LCA model calculates emissions from five animal subcategories: mature ewes, lambs, replacements lambs, hoggets and rams. The emissions from these subcategories are summed, and the results are presented as a carbon footprint as kg of CO2 eq per kg of carcass or liveweight depending on the functional unit (FU) required. Detailed information on farm structure (i.e. farm type and size, housing and grazing dates, and winter housing conditions), animal performance and breeding data (e.g. number of ewes joined to ram, number of barren ewes, number of lambs reared per ewe joined, lambing pattern, drafting pattern, replacement rate and age at first lambing), animal movements data (i.e. purchases and sales), as well as all inputs (i.e. fertilisers, concentrate feed, fossil fuel usage and contractor’s services) and the main product outputs (meat and wool) for every month are required. Trained farm data recorders collect all the requisite information as part of National Farm Survey annually. This information, which is collected across a range of livestock and arable systems, is also the basis for the Teagasc National Farm Survey Sustainability Report. 

A national survey to collect the data

“I use data collected through the Teagasc National Farm Survey to run the Sheep LCA model. For now, we have evaluated all 180 Sheep meat-producing farms participating in the LIFE Green Sheep project, from which 149 are mixed Sheep and Livestock farms, nine Sheep and Tillage (crops) farms and 22 Specialised Sheep farms. We also have assessed 15 farms with a sheep enterprise which are part of the Teagasc Signpost Programme and have a sustainability plan in place. The Irish LCA Sheep model is continuously being updated e.g. research is on-going within Teagasc to incorporate grassland and hedgerows carbon sequestration into the model” explains Dr Lyubov  Bragina who is in charge of the farm data analysis.