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The Irish veterinary community comes together to discuss their role in assisting farmers towards achieving sustainable food production goals

The CAVI Sustainable Livestock Production Conference took place at the Tullamore Court Hotel, Offaly, on Wednesday January 18th. The event set out to explore the environmental impact of our agriculture and food industries and to examine how vets, working with their clients, can positively impact and contribute towards a more sustainable agricultural sector into the future. 

A wide range of expert speakers, both Irish and International, offered a local and global perspective on the challenges, and the potential solutions, facing us. Commenting on the goals of the conference, Donal Lynch – Veterinary Ireland member and XLVets member – stated:

“The veterinary industry, hand-in-hand with farmers across the country, is already doing an awful lot to promote ongoing health on farms, which contributes to addressing our environmental impact and is helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But we need to continue to upskill in the area of sustainability and explore the issues and the solutions that will help us to achieve our targets.”

Picture 1: Conor Geraghty, Doreen Corridon, Donal Lynch, Donal Murphy, Fergal Morris, Rachel Hayton, Finbarr Murphy

Keynote speaker Dr. Frank Mitloehner – Professor and Air Quality Specialist in Cooperative Extension in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis – highlighted the importance of utilising our natural resources to feed the world’s growing population:

“Without ruminants we could not make use of 2/3 of all agricultural land in the world. We have a limited amount of natural resources to feed the growing global human population, so it is imperative for us to make the best use of all the resources we have. For a country like Ireland, to me there is no doubt that you have to use those resources, all that green grass that you are famous for all over the world, in order to produce highly nutritious food products.”

“If you reduce your livestock, the consumer demand for animal products remains, so this food will simply be produced by other countries, which then produce the emissions – this is called leakage and it doesn’t work. I hope that the veterinary community in Ireland helps your policy makers understand this point.”

Picture 2: Keynote speaker Dr. Frank Mitloehner

He also focused on the importance of re-thinking how we manage methane:

“Tackling the issue around livestock and its impact on our climate demands for us to re-think methane. The gas is only a problem if we don’t manage it but if we do manage it, it can be a solution. Opportunities such as converting methane into electrical power to replace fossil fuels should be explored. Reducing methane reduces global warming.”

Keynote speaker Rachel Hayton – Synergy Farm Health and BCVA Board Member, discussed how we can embed sustainability in veterinary practice:

“We have an opportunity as a profession to make a big difference by; helping our clients farm more efficiently and more sustainably, lobbying for fair metrics and a fair economic environment, promoting evidence-based decision-making, educating ourselves and making our practices greener but not at the expense of animal health and welfare or social and economic issues or by exporting our footprint overseas.

Picture 3: Keynote speaker Rachel Hayton

Other speakers on the day included: Donal Murphy of XLVets opened the conference and Geoff Dooley was the MC for the event; Fergal Morris, MVB, General Manager, MSD; Animal Health Ireland, who discussed the future of technology in sustainability; John Murray, Director of Meat, Food & Beverage Sectors with Bord Bia, offered an update on developments within the Origin Green initiative; Dr Tom O’Dwyer, Teagasc, focused his presentation on the Signpost Programme; Prof. David Kenny, Teagasc, examined mitigation strategies to reduce GHG emissions from Irish pasture-based livestock production systems; and Dr Doreen Corridan offered some insight into Irish processors’ view on sustainability.

The event was sponsored by XLVets Ireland and MSD Animal Health Ireland.

Picture 4: XLVets Ireland; John Quille, Donagh Mc Donnell, Brian Ryan, John O Rourke, Rachel Brown, Donal Murphy, Denise Duggan, Kevin O Sullivan, Tadgh Gavin, Padraig Duggan, Mike Curran and Donal Lynch

For more information on the event and bios of all speakers visit

For copies of the presentations given or interview requests please email