Reducing greenhouse gas emissions vital for dairy

Rising input costs are affecting all Australian dairy farmers, making it more important than ever to ensure that your farm is operating efficiently and not wasting money.

Farmers also increasingly need to reduce on-farm greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to meet industry and supply chain emissions reduction targets, community, insurance and finance market expectations.

A first step to identifying opportunities for improved on-farm efficiency and addressing the need to reduce GHG emissions can be as simple as knowing what your carbon footprint is.

By mapping out your farm’s current carbon footprint, it can help you determine strategies which not only lower your input costs and improve profitability but can also reduce your carbon emissions.

Industry targets and carbon markets

The Australian dairy industry is committed to undertaking action to reduce its emissions across the whole supply chain. In 2015 the industry set a goal of a 30 per cent reduction in emissions intensity by 2030. Evidence of the industry’s commitment is reported each year through the Australian dairy industry Sustainability Framework Report.

Markets, investors and  communities expect agrifood industries, especially livestock-based industries, to play their part in reducing emissions to help the world keep global warming to under two degrees.” Elissa McNamara, National Lead for Climate and Energy – Dairy Australia.

“Most processors are required by regulation to report their GHG emissions and suppliers need to demonstrate that they are doing what they can to reduce emissions. Investors also want evidence of activities to reduce emissions and help limit global warming.”

Carbon and biodiversity markets have been developed across the world as a mechanism to incentivise emissions reduction or carbon sequestration across all industries, including agriculture, giving farmers an opportunity to realise the value of their environmental stewardship.

While an attractive notion for many farmers, carbon markets are complex and it can be difficult to sort through and identify how you successfully participate in a way that is right for your business.

The first step before taking any action is for farmers to understand their baseline carbon emissions - whether it be soil carbon or your farm's total emissions - so you can identify where the opportunities are. This step is also critical to measuring and reporting on improvements over time.

Support available

Dairy Australia has developed a range of free tools to help farmers understand their on-farm emissions and how carbon markets operate. These tools also provide information on options to consider for on-farm projects, whether you’re opting to manage your own project or to engage with external service providers or cooperatives. If farmers do decide to use an external service provider, Dairy Australia also offers helpful tips on doing your due diligence to ensure you choose a trustworthy partner.

The Australian Dairy Carbon Calculator (ADCC)  has recently been updated and helps farmers calculate the effect of different GHG emissions abatement strategies on total farm emissions. It estimates the carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions of a dairy enterprise.

Farmers enter data into the ADCC about their whole farm system components, such as milk production, annual diet intake of milkers, fertilisers, energy consumption and manure management.  The calculator then determines the emissions baseline and helps farmers explore how diet, herd or feedbase management, fertiliser and renewable energy can affect their GHG emissions.

Farmers can use the ADCC to benchmark their GHG emissions against others and work out emission reduction strategies that are best suited to their farming system.

The calculator is free to access and allows you to calculate the impact of adopting different emissions reduction strategies on your total farm emissions and emissions intensity.

It can also help you work out the strategies best suited to your farming system. You can complete the ADCC in a standalone spreadsheet or by completing an extra seven questions in DairyBase , a free online financial analysis tool which is also made available by Dairy Australia.

The calculator is part of Dairy Australia’s focus on delivering initiatives for efficiency of major dairy farm inputs, such as water and energy, and supporting action on-farm to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

For more information about how Dairy Australia is supporting farmers to manage for climate and the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on your farm, visit the Climate and Environment webpage.


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