Ahead of the curve

I wish you all a very happy #Februdairy! This month, we celebrate the best of dairy and all its delicious products, from fresh milk to yogurt to cheese to ice cream. This is the third year of this happy month, so enjoy your products, and others. I have had my delivery from Neal’s Yard to top up the cheddar and blue cheese selection, have stocked up on more tasty yogurts and ice cream, all to start off Februdairy on the right hoof.

The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF)’s online dairy conference, #Dairytech2021 (@Dairy_TechUK), is ongoing this week in the UK. In between the on-farm robotics and discussions of sustainability and silage, more than one speaker reminded the audience that of the agricultural sectors and industries at large, the dairy industry has been talking about the environment and sustainability for a decade, in the form of the Dairy Roadmap in the UK.

As farmers can tell you, they know all about climate change, because they are living it. And they knew it 10 years ago. Meanwhile, the National Farmers Union has set a carbon reduction target to net zero emissions by 2040, which is 10 years ahead of the UK government’s target. While globally, dairy production accounts for around 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, in the UK it amounts to less than two per cent of the country’s total emissions, according to the RABDF.

Dairy is unique as it can not only produce emissions, it can sequester them, another speaker pointed out. It can alleviate some emissions through feed, farmers can restore peatlands, and they can look at anaerobic digestion and biogas to use the manure. The use of cow fertiliser is preferable to industrially produced fertiliser. Efficient feeding can make less methane, which in itself is a less long-lived greenhouse gas than ones from fossil fuels.

It is also heartening to see the improrved interaction online for dairy. Nicholas Saphir of AHDB pointed out that the online events were attracting hundreds of people per session, making it more engaging than in-person events for dairy farmers. There is strength in numbers, and the more information that is out there, the more farmers can run their businesses efficiently and reduce GHG. I think net zero is a net gain.

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