SUSTAINABILITY ON THE FARM
Sustainability is a key focus for Dairy farmers, as the caretakers of the environment. They’re committed to managing land and water responsibly, reducing greenhouse gases and protecting Australia’s natural resources for future generations.
Some of the biggest environmental priorities for dairy farmers are:
- Soil health and nutrient balance;
- Efficient use of water;
- Protecting waterways;
- Reducing energy use and greenhouse gases; and
- Managing areas for biodiversity.
Farmers use a range of methods to manage environmental concerns on their farm. These can include:
- Planting shelter belts of trees and other vegetation to provide shelter to livestock and habitats for native animals, birds and insects;
- Re-vegetating riverbanks and paddocks to reduce soil erosion, runoff and salinity;
- Testing soil for nutrient levels before applying fertilisers, to ensure they only use as much as they need;
- Measuring soil moisture to determine the level of irrigation required and matching irrigation to the requirement of plants;
- Ensuring cows are well-fed to reduce methane emissions;
- Diverting water from the milking shed (which can often contain animal waste), into separate settling ponds where it can be processed and eventually recycled to irrigate and fertilise paddocks; and
- Using renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power.
Dairy farms and methane emissions
Just like humans, dairy cows digest their food with the help of microbes in their stomachs. As the microbes digest the food, they generate methane gas, which needs to be released.
Methane produced by dairy cows makes up approximately 3% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
Agricultural researchers are continually investigating ways of reducing methane emissions on dairy farms, through a combination of initiatives including the types and mix of food given to dairy cows.