Farmers should consider breeding horses as part of emissions reduction program – ministers

Ranchers should consider breeding and raising horses and could be given an incentive to do so as part of efforts to cut Ireland’s agricultural emissions by 25 per cent by the end of the decade, a Green Party minister has said.

Unior Agriculture Secretary Pippa Hackett said she wants to explore ways to support the horse-breeding sector and potentially incentivize ranchers to breed horses that produce far less methane than cows or sheep.

“Horses can also be kept in a very environmentally friendly and biodiversity-friendly manner,” said the Minister of State for Biological Diversity and Senator of the Greens Irish Independent.

They are not ruminants and can add value, and that’s perhaps something some ranchers might consider.

“I think there is scope for that.

“Ireland is synonymous with the horse and it’s certainly something we need to support,” she said.

Ms Hackett, who has bred racehorses with her husband Mark, said action to encourage ranchers to take up horse breeding was a “small part” of Irish agriculture’s effort to diversify into more environmentally friendly practices.

It comes after the coalition last month agreed a target of reducing the sector’s emissions by 25 percent by 2030, after months of negotiations over the government’s plan to tackle the climate crisis.

Ms Hackett spoke yesterday in Dublin at the launch of the Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) Business of Breeding report.

“A lot of breeders already have farms, many have a few mares on the side,” she says.

“Sure, just from today’s conversation I think there is scope there so it would be something I would be interested in to see how we can support the sector.”

She said she “isn’t necessarily” suggesting that farmers reduce their herds of cattle, “but maybe having a few horses on the side always helps a bit with diversification and different income streams.”

Ms Hackett said the Business of Breeding report highlighted the potential of the equestrian sector, which she described as lucrative as it is already worth more than €800m a year.

The report found that nearly half of breeders have another farm, while more than four in 10 breeders have fewer than 10 horses.

“More than 50 percent of sport horse breeders are small, they only own a few horses,” she said.


Junior Secretary of Agriculture Pippa Hackett. Photo: Gerry Mooney

“Many of them are not yet connected to farms. Some are, some aren’t.

“So the report really gives a good picture and a good sense of the situation on the ground and the potential there is and I expect the aspirations of these growers will grow and increase.”

According to the report, 78 percent of growers have taken at least one environmental action.

The global equine population causes about 0.6 percent of global emissions, while cows and other livestock account for an estimated 14.5 percent of human-caused emissions.

Cattle farming and milk production are responsible for the largest part of the emissions at 41 and 20 percent respectively.

The report also outlines plans for growers to invest €342 million in the sector over the next three years.

It comes after Agriculture Secretary Charlie McConalogue recently announced horse breeding would take place
Eligible for government grants under the targeted agricultural modernization programs as part of the next Common Agricultural Policy from 2023 onwards.

It follows extensive lobbying by Horse Sport Ireland, which has campaigned for money to help those involved in horse breeding to modernize their facilities such as stables, arenas, horse fences, wintering paddocks and horse handling facilities. Farmers should consider breeding horses as part of emissions reduction program – ministers

Fry Electronics Team

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