Introduction to the challenge addressed

Installed in 2014 in the English Channel, Nicolas ONFROY raises 90 limousine breed cows in organic system, 100% grassland with 180 ha of natural meadows. It is one of the 6 innovative farms of the LIFE BEEF CARBON program in Normandy. 

Nicolas is sensitive to its impact on the environment and more particularly to its greenhouse gas emissions. He is very keen on training and likes to be able to compare himself with other breeders. In 2016, he joined the LIFE BEEF CARBON den project, wanting to restore truths about cattle farming by proving that co2 emissions are balanced (all-grass system with many hedgerows).

Description of Good Practice

There is broad consensus on the contributions of grassland to water quality, biodiversity and the fight against global warming through carbon storage. But it must be acknowledged that policies to support agriculture have been unfavourable. Even today, despite the recognition of the magnitude of the ecosystem services attributed to grasslands and rangelands, the question of their remuneration remains. 

Nicolas therefore carried out a CAP2ER diagnosis with his technician, in order to evaluate the impact of his farm. The diagnosis allowed him to identify the strengths of the operation, such as:

  • A 100% grassland system with exclusively natural meadows,
  • A linear fort of hedgerows (more than 15km)
  • The presence of many streams on the farm, which are CO2 sensors.

Nicolas noted the importance of taking into account grass and the benefit of grazing in existing tools, not only environmentally but financially

Impact on farm performance

The implementation of the CAP2ER action plan allowed the farmer to lower his net carbon footprint to 1.8 kg eq CO2/kg of live meat produced by :

  • Energy valorizing hedges (firewood for self-consumption)
  • Installing 1,600 m2 of photovoltaic panels (250,000 kw) on the mothers' housing, which produce energy at 7 grams of CO2 per kWh per year, where the French average is 20 grams.
  • Reducing unproductive animals, limiting the number of empty cows and shortening the time between last calving and cull. 

This program allowed Nicolas to become aware of the emission of cattle and its manure, and the importance of carbon capturing in his meadows and trees.

 Audio-visual material

Farmer comment

The mainstream media often suggests that beef producers are polluters. Yet I feel that I am vigilant. It was important for me to measure the environmental impact of my farm and to be able to communicate at my level to the consumer.

When the results were returned, I was both pleasantly surprised and a little disappointed. Pleasantly surprised because my carbon footprint was then 2.5 kilos of CO2 equivalent per kilo of live meat produced when the world average is 27. Disappointed at the time because it was going to be difficult to establish an action plan… and to valorize my practices !