The UK dairy industry is leading the rest of the world when it comes to improving its environmental credentials, according to Dairy UK. The sector accounts for about 2% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, but there are many ways this is being reduced throughout the supply chain, director general, Jim Begg said at the launch of a new publicity campaign (see below).

“Collectively there’s a lot going on. Energy use has fallen 16% since the mid-90’s, methane emissions are down 13% and there is a lot more emphasis on closed loop recycling.

“What’s more, we’re seeing that businesses are becoming more efficient as they pursue environmental goals. The more people see this, the more it will drive further environmental improvements.”

Many retailers (such as Tesco) and processors were also following the likes of M&S and Waitrose by setting out general environmental standards linked to milk price and this was likely to continue, he added.

Mr Begg believed it was therefore vital the industry tried to achieve the ambitious environmental targets set out in the Milk Roadmap in order to satisfy these changing demands and prove to government that more environmental regulation was not needed. “Although it’s fallen out of the media spotlight recently, the UK government still has the environment very high on its agenda. We want to show that a lot of the issues are being tackled and ask the government whether there really is a need to impose more regulation on the sector.”

What can be done on-farm?
Getting the correct diet and genetics could cut methane emissions per litre of milk produced by 20%, Dairy UK claimed. Results of one project between Welsh producers, First Milk and animal nutritionists at Keenan Rumans found that optimising forage fibre helped animals chew more and convert feed into energy more efficiently. This raised yields by up to four litres (15%) per cow per day and cut methane emissions by over 20% per litre – equivalent to 6t methane for every million litres of milk.

Better utilisation of manure and slurry was another key area for improvement. Research by Kite consulting found that the top five dairy farms studied used around 40% less artificial nitrogen fertiliser than the bottom five, largely due to better slurry application and soil management.

More detail on these findings and similar case studies from across the dairy supply chain can be found in a new Dairy UK “Green and white” booklet. Copies will be sent to MPs, ministers, European officials and lobby groups in a bid to raise awareness of how the sector is already working to improve its environmental credentials.