Reducing farm emissions


Greenhouse gas emissions represent an inefficiency in dairy systems. The loss of methane and nitrous oxide gases into the atmosphere means that energy and nitrogen that could be directed towards production are being lost. Some level of emissions is expected, but there are many opportunities within a typical dairy system to reduce greenhouse gases and achieve efficiency and profitability gains.

Although the carbon footprint of Australian dairying is one of the lowest internationally, there is still scope to improve efficiency. The Australian dairy industry has made a commitment to minimising its environmental footprint, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 30% by 2020.

Cows and irrigation  VIDEO: Australian dairy farms and emissions
Efficient farms make more profit and produce less emissions

The livestock sector has a large potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Mitigation (reduction or prevention) of the sector’s emissions could be achieved by a reduction in production or consumption, by an increase in production efficiency to reduce emissions per livestock product, or by shifting the structure of production towards less emission-intensive animal food types. Many technical options to reduce emissions exist, including feed supplements and feed management, grazing land and manure management, health management and improved animal husbandry practices.

The Australian Government plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Australia via its Emissions Reduction Fund and renewable energy targets.

Key points:

  • Agriculture faces the dual challenge of increasing food production while reducing emissions

  • It is important to first understand your emissions (i.e. footprint) to pin-point the most effective options for reductions

  • Methane and nitrous oxide are the major on-farm emissions on most dairy farms

  • Herd, feed and soil based strategies can reduce emissions on some dairy farms

  • Following current best practice minimises emissions per litre of milk

  • Well managed farms have few options to reduce emissions without significant changes to their farming or feeding system.