The main contributor to our overall carbon footprint is the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from dairy farm production systems, primarily from cows. As ruminant animals, dairy cows produce methane during digestion, emitted mainly through burping. Nitrous oxide is emitted from dairy pasture too, as the urine and faeces produced by the cows and the fertilisers applied are broken down. Both methane and nitrous oxide are significant GHGs, making up the majority of the emissions in the production of dairy products.
Other sources of on-farm emissions include use of energy and electricity in farm operations and milk cooling, and emissions relating to farm inputs such as feed and fertiliser.
Riparian management is a key activity to improve water quality, enhance ecosystem health and improve biodiversity. Fencing defined waterways prevent cows excreting directly into waterways and protects river and stream banks from cows grazing on them, which helps limit erosion. Planting along river and stream banks also help with erosion by filtering sediment. It also filters nutrient run-off, provides shade for the water for cooling and encourages increased land and water-based biodiversity.
At the end of May 2017, our farmers have essentially delivered on the targets to keep stock out of all permanent waterways on their dairy farms, through fencing 98.4 percent of the entire length of these waterways and installing bridges or culverts for 99.8 percent of all crossings. This work is independently inspected and verified. A specific process is now being followed by the few remaining farmers who have work outstanding.
We are working with our farmers to have documented riparian management plans in place for 100 percent of farms by the end of the 2019-20 season. Within the plan key activities are identified specific to each farm’s location and waterways and include planting decisions and the approach for ongoing protection and maintenance of the plants to deliver long-term benefits for waterways.
We have not made as much progress in this area as originally planned – at the end of FY17 four percent of our farmers had a documented plan in place. However, through the additional SDAs and the services they will be offering, including Farm Environment Plans, we expect accelerated progress over the next three years.
Soil is vital for food production and underpins the success of the dairy industry. Globally, soils are under pressure from increases in population, higher demands for food and competing land uses. Already approximately 33 percent of global soils are degraded¹ and significant global effort is required to address this issue.
Soil faces different challenges in different countries and regions. In New Zealand, compaction, erosion, and changes in soil carbon are the key challenges. Given the complex interaction between soil and the whole farm system, we need to take an integrated approach to improve soil health.
Waste to landfill (tonnes)
We collected and reported our global combined waste to landfill for the first time in FY17. We intend to use this information to set a robust baseline in order to build a global reduction target.