How green are our cows?

28/01/2021

How green are our cows?

New research shows New Zealand dairy farmers have the world’s lowest carbon footprint – at half the emissions of other international producers.

AgResearch analysis released today confirms New Zealand retains its outstanding position in low-emission dairy milk production, with an on-farm carbon footprint 46 percent less than the average of 18 countries studied.

Commissioned by DairyNZ, the study was independently produced by AgResearch and peer-reviewed by an international specialist in Ireland.

The research analysed 55 percent of global milk production, including major milk producing countries.

New Zealand is the most efficient producer at 0.74 kg CO2e per kg FPCM (fat and protein corrected milk) – which is 46 percent less than the average of the countries studied. The average is 1.37 kg CO2e per kg FPCM.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said the research plays a key part in understanding how New Zealand dairy farms stack up and informs how our farmers can be even more efficient.

“New Zealand’s dairy sector is committed to remaining the most efficient producer of low emissions milk in the world. Our focus as a sector is sustaining our success as consumers and communities increasingly seek sustainably produced food,” said Dr Mackle.

Dr Mackle said there is a huge amount of work underway to support farmers to reduce emissions.

“New Zealand dairy farmers’ hard work and investment over decades has contributed to this world-leading status. Our grass-based, outdoor grazing system is unique globally and is critical to our success.

“Because we are already so efficient, there is no silver bullet to even greater efficiency. Significant investment in research and development is needed to find solutions.

“Our sector is committed and has research underway. We need Government support as we adopt new knowledge, practices and technology.”

At 0.74 kg CO2e per kg FPCM, New Zealand was followed by Uruguay at 0.85, Portugal at 0.86, Denmark at 0.9 and Sweden at 1. Peru clocks in as the highest emissions producer among the countries studied, at 3.29 kg CO2e per kg FPCM. Peru is followed by Costa Rica at 2.96 and Kenya at 2.54.

The carbon footprint is measured in total greenhouse (GHG) emissions per kg of product.

The research compares carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions per kilogram of milk (fat and protein corrected milk – the nutritional content recognised in the study as CO2e per kg FPCM). This is an internationally recognised method.

The countries selected had published research that enabled a like-for-like comparison.

AgResearch scientists Andre Mazzetto and Stewart Ledgard led the research, following methodology in line with International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) standards.

Dr Mazzetto said it is always challenging to compare carbon footprinting studies, due to different methods in each scientific paper.

“Here, we reviewed international studies and recalculated their footprints in a systematic way, using methods accepted internationally to provide a fair and robust comparison between different countries,” said Dr Mazzetto.

“Bearing in mind, countries may have different emission profiles and different ways of calculating their footprints for milk production, we believe we have reached the best possible comparison from the data available.

“New Zealand is known internationally for its low carbon footprint of dairy product, which is supported by this research. There is still potential to improve and achieve lower emissions as other countries also advance their dairy sectors.”

Waikato dairy farmer and Climate Change Ambassador George Moss said pasture-based farming and genetic improvement are important components.

“Grass-based farms and sophisticated animal breeding are key components to our low carbon footprint but there is more we need to do as we play our part in addressing climate change,” said Mr Moss.

“We are world-leading at emissions efficient milk production, but we must continue to adapt and adopt new technology and knowledge. Our global competitors are never far behind, plus we know it is the right thing to do for our environment, our consumers and humanity as a whole.”

Lower emissions aren’t the only measure of how green cows are, but they are an important one when the pressure is on to meet Paris Accord commitments to lower greenhouse gases.

This research, and the Accord’s declaration that lowering emissions shouldn’t come at the cost of food production ought to provide reassurance to New Zealand dairy farmers.

But there is no guarantee that what ought to happen will happen when the Climate Change Commission reports next month.


Rural round-up

05/05/2015

Dairy price rise case of ‘when not if’ – Sally Rae:

DairyNZ research and the latest economic outlook for dairy farming was outlined at a Farmers Forum, organised by DairyNZ, in Balclutha last weekend. Agribusiness reporter Sally Rae went along.

Medium-term prospects for dairy prices remain ”solid but not spectacular”, Rabobank’s director of dairy research New Zealand and Australia, Hayley Moynihan, says.

The 2014 15 season was further evidence of the market volatility expected to continue in global dairy markets, Ms Moynihan said.

A recovery in prices was all about ”when and not if” but the recovery was likely to be more prolonged than seen in 2009 10 and 2012 13. . .

 DairyNZ chief’s bloodline is farming – Sally Rae:

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle always wanted to be a farmer.

Brought up on a Kaikoura dairy farm which has been in his family for generations, farming is in his blood.

His intention was to go to Lincoln University, complete his tertiary studies and then return and farm alongside his brother.

But he got ”sidetracked” by the science and business aspect and was encouraged to follow that path. . .

Dairy to benefit from Chinese-NZ research:

A new research project between China and New Zealand is to focus on how to improve the efficiency of water use in the dairy sector.

The collaborative project involves AgResearch and the Chinese Academy of Sciences and is aimed at helping a range of factors from watering feed crops to washing out cow sheds.

Principal scientist at AgResearch’s Ruakura base Stewart Ledgard said both countries had a lot to learn from each other. . .

 Les Roughan still going strong in dog trialing at 91 – Diane Bishop:

Les Roughan’s ticker isn’t the best.

But, the 91-year-old, who lives at Mandeville, is determined to finish the dog trialing season before undergoing heart surgery.

Roughan is the oldest competitor at the Tux South Island Sheep Dog Trial Championships which are being held on Leithen Valley Farm at Greenvale this week. . .

New research into West Coast agricultural pest:

Fresh research by AgResearch scientists will help unlock mysteries of one of the West Coast’s worst agricultural pests and allow farmers to make better management decisions and potentially save money.

Porina caterpillars are grazers that have the potential to reduce the long term quality and production of pasture but AgResearch Senior Scientist Sarah Mansfield says very little is known about the pest’s specific impact on the West Coast.

However, research conducted during a three year $300,000 Sustainable Farming Fund project will allow farmers to better understand how to monitor for the pest and then utilise control methods more efficiently and cost effectively.

“One of the big problems is that farmers often use control methods too late and after the damage is already done,” Dr Mansfield says.

“Clearly this costs a great deal of time and money for very little return so we hope to be able to provide them with more effective tools to alleviate this.” . . .

NZX adds iFarm to its AgriHQ business –  Suze Metherell:

(BusinessDesk) – NZX has bought iFarm, the livestock market information business, for an undisclosed sum from owners Jon Sherlock and Peter Fraser and will add the firm to its AgriHQ data business.

The Napier-based agriculture service publishes reports covering export data and prices as well as a wrap up of stock sales across the country, the Wellington-based exchange operator said in a statement. The acquisition price was confidential and wasn’t material. . .


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