Teagasc leading development of more sustainable Euro livestock production systems

A consortium of 16 partner organisations from across Europe gathered at the Teagasc Ashtown Conference Centre, Dublin on Wednesday 7th and Thursday 8th February 2024, to officially kick-off the project.

A core objective of STEP UP is to generate clear, unambiguous and quantitative information to support greater sustainability, viability and resilience of environmentally compatible European Livestock Production Systems. Through state-of-the-art research methodologies and thorough and effective stakeholder engagement, STEP UP will deliver a platform of measures to support European policy makers with science-based evidence on the impacts and externalities of ELPS, as part of the food and wider ecosystem.

Launching the project, Martin Heydon TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Research and Development, Farm Safety, and New Market Development, said, “With 90% of Irish farms having some form of livestock farming activity, this area plays a vital socio-economic role in rural Ireland and this is also the case in many EU countries. Irish livestock farming is embracing a wide range of practices to improve sustainability, from breeding more sustainable animals to using less fertiliser, which also produces lower emissions, as well as incorporating multi-species swards and clover into grassland, amongst other areas.

“Research and innovation have driven the development of these and for this reason; I am delighted to be launching this new, pan-European research project ‘STEP-UP’. Through the involvement of 16 partners across 10 countries, I am confident that the research will provide valuable insights and data for the benefit of European livestock production and I wish the team, led by Professor David Kenny of Teagasc Grange, well in their work over the coming four years”.

Step by Step to Innovation
STEP UP will forge a clear path forward in the co-creation of ELPS suited for future societal needs. This starts with mapping data gaps, a step that is crucial for improving the reliability of all further analyses. This will be followed by establishing current Innovative Livestock Production Systems which requires documenting and understanding novel and developing practices in livestock management.

By indicating and measuring the impact for livestock systems with a focus on quantifying the consequences of these systems, STEP UP intends to establish a holistic methodology for quantifying impacts. The use of novel data modelling approaches will enhance the accuracy of predictive models enabling forecast scenarios including monetising impacts so that transition pathways for more sustainable and diverse ELPS can be identified.

Evidence-based STEP UP knowledge of ELPS as part of the food system and wider ecosystem will be disseminated using the multi-actor approach. Finally, STEP UP will provide a unique and warranted platform to support the development of informed and objective policy measures to optimise the central role of livestock in meeting the nutritional and societal needs of the European and global population.

Professor David Kenny, Head of Animal and Bioscience Research in Teagasc and STEP UP coordinator, said: “In order to address the many challenges facing ELPS, the overall objective of STEP UP is to provide policy makers with a robust evidence base on the impacts and externalities and, in particular, their monetised values, of livestock farming as part of the food system and wider ecosystem”.

Collaboration is the key
STEP UP’s collaborative approach brings together reputable partners from all over Europe – TEAGASC, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, INRAE, Wageningen University & Research, IFIP – Institut du porc, The European Forum of Farm Animal Breeders, The Spanish National Research Council, Foodscale Hub, Institute De L’elevage, FeedInov CoLab, Germany’s Federal Office for Agriculture and Food, The Poznań University of Life Sciences, Thuenen, IST-ID, Institut Technique de l’Aviculture and Queen’s University Belfast.

Professor Frank O’Mara, Director of Teagasc and current President of the EU Animal Task Force said, “Teagasc is centrally involved in supporting the ongoing development of the economic and environmental viability of the livestock sector, both nationally and internationally. Taking the leadership role in the STEP UP project further demonstrates our commitment to strengthening the sustainability of both Irish and European livestock production systems”.

The project will actively involve farmers, data providers, research institutions, and other industry experts, policymakers, the European Commission, and other key agri-food industry actors.


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