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Carbon Footprint Dairy

Carbon Footprint Dairy (PDF)

View Video: Carbon footprint and suitable actions to reduce emissions on a dairy farm - YouTube 

Know Your Number

As farmers, you are being asked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from your farming system to control global warming. But where do you start? Many dairy and beef farmers have a carbon emissions figure available to them but many are not aware of this information.

After each Bord Bia audit, all certified dairy and beef farmers receive a Farmer Feedback Report from Bord Bia with their farm’s carbon footprint as well as an assessment of farm productivity, nutrient management, grassland, animal feeding and farm safety.

The carbon footprint refers to how much greenhouse gases (GHG) are emitted from an activity such as the production of milk or meat or driving a car or taking a flight. The emissions of all GHG gases are expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2 Eq). In farming, the production of every kg of milk or meat or grain has a carbon footprint.

How is the carbon footprint calculated?

There are four sources of data required to complete an accurate calculation of a farms carbon footprint, using the Teagasc model.

  1. Animal Identification and Movements Database (AIM) – DAFM – Beef and Dairy
  2. Daily Live Weight Gain - Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) – Beef Only
  3. Milk Production Data – Dairy Processors - Dairy Only
  4. Sustainability Survey – Scheme Members – Beef and Dairy. The sustainability survey is the only data source required for the carbon footprint calculation that is collected directly from the farmer. 

How does the information provided in the Sustainability Survey relate to the carbon footprint?

  1. Turnout and housing influences the calculation of manure storage emissions, grazing and digestion related emissions.
  2. Manure management calculates the emissions from the application and storage of manure on the farm.
  3. Concentrate feeding rates calculates the emissions associated with the production of concentrate feed fed to animals.
  4. Fertilizer application data are required to track the emissions from the production of fertilizers and minerals and the emissions related to the application of fertilizer to the land.

It is important to note that inaccuracies in the data provided via the sustainability survey can result in an inaccurate carbon footprint and grass-fed result, and farmer feedback report.

When do you get the Farmer Feedback Report?

The feedback report is posted to the farmer within one week of certification of the Bord Bia audit. It can also be accessed from the audit portal website, farm.bordbia.ie using your herd number and pin (which you can reset if you have forgotten it).

Where do you find the carbon footprint on the report?

The carbon footprint is displayed on the first page of the report. The example above is for a dairy farm – the carbon footprint for this farm is 1.10 kg CO2 / kg FPCM which is 3% lower than it was in 2018 and compares well to the national average for herds of 125-150 cows which have a carbon footprint of 1.15. The carbon footprint for beef farms is presented in a similar format but expressed as kg CO2 / kg live weight.

How do you know what is contributing to your carbon footprint?

On page three, a graph displays the percentage share of carbon emissions on your farm under the following headings and farm activities: animal digestion; manure; fertiliser; forage/feed production; other (e.g. transport, fuel, etc.).

In the information and advice section, there are green and white-shaded bullet points, what do these colours indicate?

The advice is broken down into two levels of activity. The green leaf is related to actions specifically set out in the Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC). These actions are provided to encourage farmers to engage with the Climate Action Plan and make farmers more informed on those types of actions. The white leaf relates to more general information.

Please contact your local Teagasc advisor to discuss the carbon footprint for your farm and the actions you might take.


Key Technologies to Reduce Emissions on Dairy Farms

Summary of the key technologies that a dairy farmer can adopt to reduce emissions on the farm

Use of protected urea

  • How it works
    Slows the rate at which urea is converted to ammonium, reducing nitrous oxide emissions

  • Impact at farm level
    Protected urea is slightly cheaper than CAN and grows similar grass yields to CAN

  • Benefit to the environment
    Protected urea has 71% lower nitrous oxide emissions than CAN. Reduces footprint & total emissions1,2 

    1 Reduces footprint = reduces the GHG emissions per kg of fat and protein corrected milk

    2 Total emissions = reduces total GHG emissions from the farm

  • Actions Needed by Dairy Farmers
    Replace all straight nitrogen (N) with protected urea

Improving EBI

  • How it works
    Better fertility, reducing GHG emissions from non-milk producing animals and improved efficiency.
  • Impact at farm level
    Every €10 change in herd EBI will increase profit by €20/cow.

  • Benefit to the environment
    For every €10 increase in EBI, GHG emissions decline by 1% per unit of product. Reduces footprint.

  • Actions Needed by Dairy Farmers
    Increase the EBI of your herd by €10 per year.

Grazing Management

  • How it works
    Animals grazing better quality forage produce less GHG (less silage in the diet).

  • Impact at farm level
    Every extra tonne of grass dry matter (DM) grown and utilised/ha is worth €173 to the farmer.

  • Benefit to the environment
    Every additional week at grass reduces total GHG emissions by 1%. Reducing pre-grazing covers from 2,000 kg DM/ha to 1,300 kg DM/ha reduces GHG emissions by 15% per day. Reduces footprint.

  • Actions Needed by Dairy Farmers
    Walk your farm weekly
    Measure grass
    Use PastureBase Ireland
    Improve infrastructure
    Avoid poaching

Improved animal health

  • How it works
    Increased animal performance, reduced replacement rate and reduced number of non-milking animals, reduced mortality

  • Impact at farm level
    Reducing health problems will improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase profitability

  • Benefit to the environment
    Improvements in health will reduce GHG emissions per unit of milk

  • Actions Needed by Dairy Farmers
    Use the EBI sub-index for health
    Implement a health plan/vaccination programme
    Implement good stock importing practices

Low Emissions Slurry Spreading Equipment

  • How it works
    Less nitrogen (N) volatilisation.
    Increases the N fertilizer value of slurry.
    Reduces the total chemical N inputs.

  • Impact at farm level 
    Retains an extra 3 units of N / 1,000 gallons of cattle slurry.
    Worth €3.30/cow.

  • Benefit to the environment
    Reduces ammonia emissions from slurry by up to 30% and nitrous oxide emissions through reduced chemical N use.  Reduces footprint & total emissions.

  • Actions Needed by Dairy Farmers
    Switch to using LESS equipment for all slurry spreading.

Reducing Chemical N Fertiliser Use

  • How it works
    Reduces nitrous oxide emissions.

  • Impact at farm level
    Reduction in farm profitability unless soil fertility is optimised, spread lime, use clover and LESS.

  • Benefit to the environment
    Reduce nitrous oxide emissions and nitrate losses to water.   Reduces footprint & total emissions.

  • Actions Needed by Dairy Farmers
    Get lime right first. Soil sample your farm, identify fields that need lime, P & k, make a plan.

Incorporating White Clover

  • How it works
    Nitrous oxide emission reduction is achieved from lower chemical N fertiliser use (up to 100 kg N/ha).

  • Impact at farm level
    Increased milk solids production 20-48 kg/cow per year.
    Increased net farm profit by €108-€305/ha

  • Benefit to the environment
    Can reduce nitrous oxide emissions by up to 40% due to reduced chemical N fertiliser use.  Reduces footprint & total emissions.

  • Actions Needed by Dairy Farmers
    Over a 5 year period aim to have white clover in at least 30% of your paddocks (at a minimum average annual sward clover content of 20%).