Semex conference: Efficient dairy farms are greener

Improving efficiencies on farm is not only key in managing market volatility it will also play a part in the fight against climate change, according to Sainsbury‘s Annie Graham.

Talking about Sainsbury’s carbon footprint model which aims to reduce emissions on supplier farms, Ms Graham said assessments on farm already showed promising results.

“Huge savings can be made by cutting energy used on farm. It only cost farmers using the lowest amount of energy for every cow (137 units a cow a year) £9 a cow a year compared to those using the highest amount of energy (720 units a cow a year) which equated to £54 a cow a year. This just shows you can save money by becoming more environmental friendly.”

Ms Graham also admitted that big wasn’t bad when it came to fighting climate change, with the largest and highest yielding herds actually having lower footprints. “The more milk that is produced a cow the less methane produced because fewer cows are needed for the amount of milk produced.”

And Ms Graham’s messages mirrored those of Peter Darlington of the E-CO2 Project, who said that to improve carbon efficiency, farmers had to take practical steps on farm.

Increasing milk yield, reducing replacement rates, calving heifers earlier, feeding by-products, optimising fertiliser use and manure and reducing energy consumption were just some of the ideas he put forward. “Low carbon is about increasing yields and efficiency,” he said.

However, Mr Darlington stressed doing nothing was not an option. “We are under huge political pressure and we can not underestimate the power of lobby groups, so we need to be seen to be proactive.

“When we do something about reducing carbon footprints then it can be a barrier for entry of imports, low carbon products could also be good marketing tools for the industry,” he said.

“The direct correlation between inputs, carbon and costs mean when climate change isn’t addressed it will become a threat the industry. It’s the ones that are responsive to change that will survive.”