Monday, 7 February 2022

Dairy farmers cracking on with GHG goals


Dairy farmers are making great progress in knowing their numbers – a key first step in reducing on-farm emissions.

Knowing a farm’s unique greenhouse gas (GHG) profile means actions can be tailored for best results. This helps farmers get the most out of their investment in climate change solutions, while continuing to run successful businesses.

More than 90% of dairy farms already have a GHG emissions report from their dairy company (more than 9,800 farms). A total of 18% have a GHG farm plan or GHG module in their farm plan (more than 1,950 farms).

In another key achievement, 48% of dairy farms have a Farm Environment Plan (5,254 farmers). All will have a plan by 2025 outlining their emissions footprint, where those emissions are coming from, and what they can do to manage them.

Help is at hand from sector bodies, dairy companies and rural professionals. DairyNZ’s Step Change programme has been helping farmers since 2019 to understand mitigation options best suited to their farm, while improving profitability. Around 120 events or discussion groups covering aspects of Step Change have been held, and 22 specifically on knowing your numbers.

Many farmers are already taking steps towards our sector’s climate change aspirations and obligations. Many have reduced emissions with fewer but more profitable animals, and tree planting to store carbon. They’re also reducing fertiliser use and supplementary feed.

Because New Zealand dairy is already so emissions efficient, there’s no silver bullet to even greater efficiency. So, DairyNZ, with many other partners, is investing millions in climate change research for new solutions.

This includes research into a methane vaccine and inhibitors, selective breeding of low-methane animals and forages, genetics research, reducing nitrous oxide and leaching, and technology uptake. We’ll help roll out new solutions to farmers when they’re proven and become available.

DairyNZ is working alongside Government, industry, Māori and the science sector to develop a shared research and development plan. This will accelerate new mitigations to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions.

Some are asking why dairy farmers need to do more when they are already the world’s most emissions efficient. Independent research confirms New Zealand has the lowest carbon footprint for on-farm milk production.

We need to keep reducing the footprint, in a way that’s sustainable for farming businesses, to stay ahead of the competition and meet consumer expectations. This helps keep our nutritious, high-quality products at the top of the shopping list in New Zealand and internationally.

DairyNZ is an active partner in He Waka Eke Noa, the primary sector, Government and Māori climate action partnership designed to help farmers measure, manage and reduce emissions.

The industry-good organisation is working closely with Beef + Lamb New Zealand and Federated Farmers, seeking farmer feedback on a solution for pricing emissions.

The sector needs to move on this because, if we don’t come up with an alternative, the Government will put agricultural emissions into the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The ETS comes with its own complications and DairyNZ is not confident any revenue raised would be invested in the sector.

We’re confident we’ll come up with a pricing mechanism that works for farmers while meeting Government requirements and doing the right thing for the environment.

We encourage all farmers to have a say. To find out how, go to the DairyNZ website.