Targets & Achievements
Farmers take their role as stewards of the environment very seriously. They are motivated to run their farms in the most efficient and sustainable way possible – doing more with less means improved productivity, reduced waste, and responsible use of our resources. Under proAction, dairy farmers advance the principle of continuous improvement, so consumers can be confident that they milk they enjoy was produced with the long-term health of our environment in mind.
While individual farms have implemented many different sustainability initiatives and the dairy sector reports great progress on sustainability overall, the new environment module will formally become part of the proAction program in September 2021.
Developing a Sustainability Framework
Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) conducts a life cycle assessment (LCA) of milk production every five years to establish benchmarks for the environmental impact of milk production and monitor our sector’s progress. See the results from our latest LCA here.
DFC invests in developing better farm management practices to reduce GHG emissions. Research projects increase our understanding of areas like eco-efficient production of crops, better feeding techniques, improved water management and better management practices across the whole farm.
Environmental Protection and Resource Management at the Farm Level
Many Canadian dairy farmers have established Environmental Farm Plans, which help farmers identify potential environmental concerns and outline individualized, site-specific plans to address, monitor or compensate for identified areas of risk. This will become a requirement under proAction when the Environment module launches in September 2021.
Topics covered within these plans may include, but are not limited to, biodiversity, climate change mitigation, nutrient management, energy efficiency, pest management, soil conservation and health, water use and management, and woodlands and wetlands management.
Reducing Methane and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions
Presently, dairy production in Canada represents only about 1% of Canada’s total GHG emissions. GHG emissions from dairy farms have decreased an average of 1% a year since 1990. The carbon footprint of one litre of Canadian milk is 0.94 kg of CO2 equivalent, which is less than half the global average (2.5 kg), and among the lowest in the world.
In addition, milk transportation logistics are optimized to find efficiencies that result in a lower environmental impact.
Reducing Water Usage
Dairy farmers use water for cows to drink, to keep them cool and comfortable in the hot weather, to clean equipment, and to irrigate crops where there is insufficient rainfall. Dairy farming in Canada uses just 0.02% of the fresh water supply in Southern Canada, where most of the country’s population and dairy farms are located. Still, the industry is finding efficiencies in our water use. Between 2011 and 2016 alone, water use associated with milk production decreased by 6%.
Reducing Land Usage
Dairy production uses just 2% of all Canadian farmland, and only 0.2% of all land in Canada. From 2011 to 2016, dairy farmers reduced our overall land use by 11%.
Investing in Technology and Renewable Energy
Many farmers use modern technology and energy efficient equipment on their farms. GPS-enabled tractors, milking robots, feed-pushing robots, and other technologies are helping to optimize milk production and animal care.
Some farms have also invested in renewable energy technology, such as solar panels, wind turbines, and biodigesters, which transform the methane from manure into electricity.