Farmers have highlighted the UK’s potential for carbon neutral sheep farming after a report suggested that New Zealand farms were close to achieving net zero.
Beef and sheep farms in the country have 63-118% of their on-farm emissions offset when accounting for carbon sequestration, the Auckland University of Technology report says.
The announcement has been called 'exciting and welcome news' for UK livestock farmers by the National Sheep Association (NSA), which said the sector had 'much in common' with their Southern Hemisphere counterparts.
The body added it was keen to support the research, emphasising the similarities with UK sheep farming and highlighting its potential to achieve the same.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “The UK sheep sector has so many similarities with that in New Zealand given that our sheep industries are both predominantly grass fed and pastoral in nature.
"In fact, our grassland has a low dependence on artificial inputs and has a high proportion of its area in agri-environment schemes that promote the environmental management of hedges and trees."
The NSA said that, importantly, the research was valuable to UK sheep farming because it measured the carbon held in vegetation and farm habitats in the same way the forestry sector measured carbon held in woodland and forests.
Recent research from the Rothamstead Institute has shown the soil quality beneath grasslands is equal to the soil quality in woodlands.
"The missing bit of the equation has been the role of vegetation with that work never having been done for grassland," Mr Stocker added.
The sheep sector has previously aired its concerns with current methods for measuring carbon, as it may not represent livestock in a positive light.
Mr Stocker said: “There are tools available for looking at carbon sequestration, but a further problem we have is that as far as I’m aware they (and the IPCC) still use the GWP (Global Warming Potential) figures, rather than the GWP* figures that came from Oxford University.
"These important findings showed methane has a far shorter life cycle than N2O and CO2 and therefore doesn’t build and accumulate to the same extent in the atmosphere.
“What scientists also ignore is that we have to look at land management on a multi-functional basis. Our sheep farmers are managing one of our most precious resources, while also producing nutritious food from it.
"This New Zealand work is a really helpful part of the jigsaw and it’s just as relevant to the UK.”