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Dairy farmers commit to greenhouse gas studies

By Neil Merrett , 31-Jul-2008

The global dairy industry is continuing to focus on reducing its perceived impact on climate change through new UK-based research initiatives into how exactly it affects the environment.

Following on from a recent International Dairy Federation (IDF) conference held in the UK, national association group DairyCo said it has commissioned two new research projects on greenhouse gas emissions to help shape future industry initiatives.

The DairyCo sponsored studies, entitled, A desktop review of greenhouse gas emissions and Modelling greenhouse gas emissions, are designed to give UK dairy farmers a clearer understanding of how they are contributing to the concerns.

Worldwide concerns

A spokesperson for the association group, which is funded through a UK farmers levy, said the findings could have wider importance for farmers and dairy groups worldwide.

The IDF, which represents stakeholders throughout the global dairy industry, has increasingly sought to play up the industries attempts to ensure greener production and manufacturing in the dairy supply chain, amidst criticisms from some environmental groups.

This has included a number of initiatives including the publication earlier this year of a milk roadmap by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in conjunction with industry group Dairy UK and other stakeholders.

The roadmap aims to provide guidelines for UK, and indeed globally-based, dairy suppliers to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and water use related to milk production, while also agreeing not to send any factory produced waste to landfill sites by 2020.

Study focus

Further to these aims, DariyCo says that its 'desktop study' will aim to test individual production systems environmental performances, leading into additional research on business models that can be used by dairy manufacturers.

“In understanding where the critical intervention points are in the milk production process, both projects will also help dairy farmers meet the challenges of the recently published Milk Road Map,” the association stated.

Brian Lindsay, head of DairyCo’s research and development arm said that a better understanding of how climate change directly affects dairy farming and vice-versa were the main aims of the project.

“We don’t want dairy farmers to make considerable changes to their businesses in an effort to ‘do their bit’ and see limited results,” he stated. “So we need to understand where we can make the most beneficial interventions from both business and environmental perspectives.”

After the initial two studies are then complete, an additional research project is expected to begin next year with the aim of implementing the findings into practice, DairyCo said.

The desktop review, which began earlier this month is expected to be finished by 1 August, with the modelling project wrapping up the by about February of next year.

Financial practicalities

The association accepted that while finding greener farming and manufacturing solutions for dairy production was vital, preventing further financial burden to an industry already claming to be struggling financial also has to be considered.

“The research is also looking at costs and practicalities of various options in order to provide farmers with the information they need to make informed choices backed by sound scientific research,” added the DairyCo spokesperson.