The plan, spearheaded by DairyNZ, which represents all dairy farmers in New Zealand, is in partnership with Fonterra.
It has the support of the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries.
Science foundation needed
DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said science-based dairy farming is the way New Zealand can lower its environmental footprint, and that dairy farmers and the scientists working alongside them, are serious about improving the environment.
Mackle said the industry is taking the first steps in understanding what dairy can do – in conjunction with the wider agricultural sector, plus industry and urban communities – to help meet New Zealand’s Paris Agreement emissions reduction target.
“Our farmers are ready to work on lowering emissions,” Mackle said, adding they are dedicated stewards of their land who want to do the right thing by the environment.
Dairy responsible for 25% of nation’s GHG emissions
Mackle said addressing on-farm methane and nitrous oxide emissions is one of the most challenging issues facing the dairy and food producing sectors, globally and in New Zealand.
Approximately 50% of New Zealand’s annual emissions are biological emissions from agriculture. Dairy emissions make up approximately half of agriculture’s GHG emissions, and around a quarter of the country’s total emissions.
Fonterra’s chief operating officer Farm Source, Miles Hurrell, said it is crucial to take an integrated approach to all the challenges facing dairy – from climate change and animal welfare, to the protection of waterways – while maintaining productivity and profitability.
“Some of their work – such as tree planting, better soil management and reducing nitrogen leaching [to release] nitrous oxide – is already helping to address emissions,” Hurrell said.
“Then there are the other science-based endeavors that are well under way, like the research to breed cows that produce fewer methane emissions, and a methane inhibiting vaccine.”
Fonterra said it will undertake a GHG on-farm recording pilot involving up to 100 Fonterra suppliers to provide each farmer with a GHG report that includes methane as part of environmental performance reporting they already receive from Fonterra.
Role of BERG
Mackle said Dairy Action for Climate Change parallels the work of the Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG), a joint sector and Government reference group.
The BERG’s purpose is to build evidence on what the sector can do on-farm to reduce emissions, and to assess the costs and opportunities of doing so.
The BERG’s final report is due in late 2017.