Project helps beef and sheep producers reduce their water footprint

Project helps beef and sheep producers reduce their water footprint

Reducing water use on beef and sheep farms is the aim of a research and development project recently launched by EBLEX.

Work behind ‘Testing the Water’, part two of EBLEX’s environmental roadmap, shows that 67 litres of valuable blue water, water taken out of the available water supply, is needed to produce one kilogram of beef and 49 litres to produce one kilogram of sheep meat.

The project aims to reduce the use of blue water on farm by highlighting how beef and sheep farmers can use feed crop choice and management to improve their water use efficiency and showing them how to implement simple water saving measures.

It will also investigate methods for retaining water on farm and reducing run-off, thereby reducing the volume of grey water required. Grey water is a notional provision for the volume needed to dilute pollutants to levels that ensure water of good ecological quality.

“The water footprint of beef and lamb reared in the UK is already much lower than that produced in many other parts of the world, as our rain-fed pasture system takes advantage of naturally-occurring water, much of which goes back into watercourses,” said Kim Matthews, EBLEX head of research and development.

“However, there is still more that can be done to conserve water at a farm level, which has benefits not only in terms of environmental impact, but also offers potential cost-savings to producers and makes farms more resilient to periods of drought.”

The first stage of the project, which involved reviewing current literature, is now complete. The second stage involves establishing a number of case study farms around England in order to look at current water use and practice, with the aim of completing a water audit and identifying practical measures to improve current areas of weakness.

The project is due to be completed at the end of the year and will be followed up with a series of on-farm workshops, demonstrating to beef and sheep producers how they can reduce their ‘water footprint’.

More information about the project can be found in the Research and Development section of the EBLEX website at

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