The carbon footprint of UK sheep production: Current knowledge and opportunities for reduction in temperate zones

A. K. Jones, D. L. Jones, P. Cross

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Web of Science)


Livestock production is a significant source of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions globally. In any sheep-producing nation, an effective agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation strategy must include sheep-targeted interventions. The most prominent interventions suited to sheep systems are reviewed in the current paper, with a focus on farm-level enteric CH4 and soil N2O emissions. A small number of currently available interventions emerge which have broad consensus on their mitigation potential. These include breeding to increase lambing percentages and diet formulation to minimize nitrogen excretion. The majority of interventions still require significant research and development before deployment. Research into the efficacy of interventions such as incorporation of biochar is in its infancy, while for others such as dietary supplements, successes in isolated studies now need to be replicated in long-term field trials under a range of conditions. Enhancing understanding of underlying biological processes will allow capitalization of interventions such as vaccination against rumen methanogenesis and pasture drainage. Many interventions cannot be recommended at a regional or national scale because, either, their mitigation potential is inextricably linked to soil and weather conditions in the locality of use, or their use is restricted to more intensive, closely managed systems. Distilling the long list of interventions to produce an effective farm-level mitigation strategy must involve: accounting for all GHG fluxes and interactions, identifying complimentary sets of additive interventions, and accounting for baseline emissions and current practice. Tools such as whole farm GHG models and marginal abatement cost curves are crucial in the development of tailored, practical sheep farm GHG mitigation strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-308
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Agricultural Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


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