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Exploring the emissions intensity of Scottish sheep and cattle livestock farms

22 March 2022

The purpose of this brief is to measure emissions intensity and compare these with estimates of farm-level technical efficiency, which reflects decision making at the farm level. The research utilises a pilot study linking farms in the Scottish Farm Business Survey to SAC’s Agrecalc carbon calculator for the crop year 2019/2020 focusing on beef and sheep-meat sectors which is the most common enterprise across Scotland.

Overall the research finds a high level of variance in emissions intensity in our beef and sheep farms, with a number of very high and very low emitters operating in cattle and sheep farms. However, the relationship between farm-level technical efficiency and emissions intensity differs between farm types. With a higher amount of variance in emissions intensity attributable to specialist sheep farms compared to cattle or mixed farms. For these farms herd-level factors, such as breed and age structure will also be an important component of emissions intensity.

Understanding where farms are with respect to emissions intensity helps to appreciate their capacity to adopt more efficient and sustainable practices and new production technologies. Moreover it provides an exercise in understanding how we can approach measurement of emissions intensity to support progress in reporting and monitoring within Scottish farming.

This report can be downloaded in full below. For further details please contact Andrew Barnes (

Exploring the emissions intensity of Scottish sheep and cattle livestock farms