The dairy industry strives to improve efficiencies, and embrace innovation to reduce its environmental impact. Investments are made to reduce energy use, to improve nutrient, land, and water management, to adapt to climate variability, to enhance biodiversity, to increase resilience, and to reduce waste. A life cycle assessment was performed in 2012 to benchmark performance. Here are some findings



Dairy Farmers of Canada and provincial boards test the validation criteria through test pilots

Over 120 farms are participating in the pilot project in spring 2016

Dairy Farmers of Canada will continue to support research that will improve farm environmental sustainability 

  • Dairy Farmers of Canada has invested in developing better farm management practices to reduce GHGfor over a decade
  • Dairy Farmers of Canada is currently financing eight projects to increase our understanding of areas like eco-efficient production of crops, better feeding techniques and water management and will improve farm management, practices designed to reduce GHG emissions from across the whole farm

Dairy Farmers of Canada will provide  an online tool for farmers to measure the carbon footprint of  their farm and make improvements

Dairy Farms + is being tested this spring and will be ready for use by farmers by mid-2016

Dairy farmers have specific action plans to improve environment on their farm

  • 70% of dairy farms have an environmental farm plan, with an action plan developed to improve specific environmental conditions on the farm
  • 78% of dairy farms have adopted sound agri-environmental practices

Dairy farmers work to reduce the impact on water needed to produce milk

  • It takes 20 litres of water to produce 1 kg of Canadian milk. This is comparable or better than other countries: France (17 L/kg), Netherlands (42 L/kg), China (132 L/kg), United States (140 L/kg), India (148 L/kg)

Dairy farmers work to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to milk production

  • Dairy production in Canada represents less than 2% of Canada’s total GHG emissions
  • GHG emissions from dairy farms have gone down an average of 1% a year between 1990 and 2012
  • The carbon footprint of 1 kg of Canadian milk is 1.01 kg of CO2 equivalent, which is roughly the impact of driving a car 6 km. This is comparable or better than other countries: New Zealand (0.9), France (1), Sweden (1.1) and United States (1.4)
  • Cow productivity and longevity help reduce the emissions of methane that naturally occur with rumination (cow’s digestive process)
  • It takes 65% fewer cows to produce milk for the Canadian population than it did in 1965
  • Logistics of milk transportation are optimized to minimize costs, time, and impact on environment

Dairy farmers recycle:  manure offers nutrients and energy

  • 30 dairy farms have a biodigestor to transform the methane from manure into electricity
  • Over 50% farms have an approved nutrient management plan to use nutrients wisely, and minimize risk for ground water contamination

Dairy farmers reduce the impact on land needed to produce milk

  • It takes 1.7 m2 of crop land to produce 1 kg of milk. This is the same amount of land needed to produce the amount of wheat used in 1-2 loaves of bread
  • Land used for dairy production is about 2% of Canadian farm land

Dairy farmers are responsible users of pesticides

  • More than 90% of dairy farmers have taken a training course and/or passed an exam on the responsible use of pesticides, and are licensed to use pesticides
  • Dairy farmers take precautions in storing pesticides safely: away from animals, milk house and children
Last updated: 15/04/2016

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