Sustainability seems to be the topic of discussion around every agriculture commodity, but the American Dairy Association’s (ADA) commitment to exceeding efficiency expectations has created an industry driven towards a more sustainable future.
To set the foundation, compared to ten years ago, US dairy farmers use 21% less land, 30% less water and 17% less feed to produce the same amount of milk, as reported by the ADA. This effort is a reflection of dairy cattle’s ability to recycle or convert food not suitable for humans into nutrient dense milk products.
While these environmental improvements are substantial, the ADA is pushing for greater advancements towards sustainability. To do this, the dairy industry is focusing on three different areas to improve production practices across the country—manure management, carbon emissions and new technology.
Like all other livestock industries, dairy cattle produce manure. Responsibly, dairy producers have found manure as a very valuable resource. Using heavily regulated storage facilities, this manure is separated into liquid and solid components. Then it is used for compost, fertilizer, or electricity.
Solid matter can be composted for bedding, which is a great way to recycle. Liquid matter is often used as a fertilizer source for many field farmers. Today, dairy farmers have advanced their storage practices to find new ways to utilize manure. Specifically, methane digesters convert manure, a large source of carbon emissions, into a renewable electricity source to power farms.
These new production management practices have proven beneficial in relation to carbon emissions. The ADA reports that the US dairy industry contributes 2% of all US greenhouse gas emissions. While relatively low, the association has set hefty goals to decrease emissions and become more sustainable. With the use of new technology and improved production practices, the dairy industry is striving for net zero emissions by 2050.
To reach this goal, the dairy industry is working to advance their technology despite already being advanced in their use of electronics. These expensive new tools are designed to help dairy producers limit their negative environmental impact. Everything from LED lights and solar panels to robotic milkers are advancing the dairy industries efforts. Then, with the incorporation of improved nutrition, redefined focus on water quality and new cow care practices, the dairy industries 2050 zero net emissions goal become manageable.
While sustainability continues to be a concern within the agriculture industry, dairy producers’ dedication to improvement is promising moving forward.
Source : Gothenburgleader June 15th 2022 by written by SAVANNAH PETERSON