Reducing dairy environmental footprint makes good business sense!

April 21st, 2017

Did you know that greenhouse gas emissions from Canadian dairy farms have gone down an average of 1% a year between 1990 and 2012? Today, dairy production in Canada represents less than 2% of Canada’s total GHG emissions. Today’s cows produce three times more than 50 years ago, thanks to increased comfort, better feed efficiency and today’s scientific knowledge applied to herd management!

As stewards of the land, farmers rely on a healthy environment for the longevity of their farming business to provide food for consumers. As times have changed, fewer people are farming but their commitment to the environment has only increased. With better information coming from research, farmers are able to make better decisions for the benefit of their farm business as well as the environment. Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) invests upwards of $2M annually, because farmers have long understood the value of investing in research to advance their industry, find innovative solutions to challenges on the farm, finding innovative sustainable farming practices, improve productivity and lessen the impact on environment.

The life cycle analysis (LCA) of dairy production in Canada, an important research which DFC funded in 2012, took stock of the progress made by then. This LCA considered both social and environmental factors to truly understand the sustainability of the dairy industry in Canada. The results of the assessment show where dairy farms in Canada are performing well and where we could invest to improve further. The carbon and water footprints of milk production are among the lowest in the world.

Upon completion of the LCA, DFC created on online platform called DairyFarms+ where farmers can input their own data, from which to calculate their farm’s environmental footprint. The tool helps identify their farm’s strengths and areas for improvement. Farmers can also consult specific best management practices that will help them meet targeted goals.

Agronomic research benefits crops and agriculture as a whole. Dairy farmers invest in particular research projects that aim to understand and improve various aspects of dairy sustainability: from water usage on a farm to improving cow health, welfare, nutrition, reproduction and more. In recent years, genomics have opened a new door with great potential to speed up our learning about dairy cows, about potential and feed efficiency notably. Feed efficiency is the animal’s ability to transform feed intake into milk production.

There is a lot more to discuss in the field of research and how dairy farmers seek out this information to adopt innovative solutions. More to come in future blogs!

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