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Sustainable Farming

Sustainable dairying in New Zealand

Sustainable dairying requires working within the environmental constraints of the land to harness its productive value, creating sustainable livelihoods while meeting the social and environmental expectations of communities and customers to deliver high-quality products. The natural nutritional value of milk and the ability to produce high quality, safe products starts on the farm. This means caring for the environment and caring for the health and well-being of dairy cows.


The challenge to produce more food for a growing global population requires an increase in productivity from the land and using our natural resources more efficiently. Increased productivity must also be combined with a reduction in waste, and through finding new ways to reduce the environmental footprint of food production.

Fonterra’s role in helping achieve this is to work with our farmers, in New Zealand, and around the world, to support their livelihoods, drive innovation and encourage good farming practices so they are able to deal with future challenges.

Our commitments

We have been working towards a target of reducing on-farm GHG emissions intensity in New Zealand by 15 percent by 2030 from a 2008 baseline. Despite a downward trend in emissions intensity here over the past five years, emissions intensity had increased in the previous four seasons. This brings us back to a similar level as that for the 2007-08 season. This is now heading in the correct direction but we believe we need to increase our focus in this area.


We have therefore lifted our ambition in this area, setting a new target for climate-neutral growth to 2030 for pre-farmgate emissions in New Zealand, from a 2015 base year. We expect milk volumes to continue to increase to 2030 so our existing emissions intensity target will not be enough to ensure the total emissions from on-farm activities will be no higher than they were in 2015. However, we believe this can be achieved through a combination of mitigations with some use of offsetting if needed. We also aspire to have a positive impact on global emissions by enabling agricultural mitigation solutions.

Our progress

The long-term trend for New Zealand shows a 20 percent decrease in biological emissions per unit of production (kilogram of milk solid) since 1990, calculated on an inventory basis.

Fonterra has commissioned regular independent analysis of our New Zealand milk supply for the full on-farm carbon life cycle. Over the past five years, this has shown a downward trend and it is now at 0.85 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilogram of fat-and-protein-corrected milk (kg CO2 -e/ kg FPCM).


This year we have extended this analysis to also consider our Australian and China footprints using the same methodology. Australia is 0.92 kg CO2 -e/kg FPCM and our seven Chinese farms average 1.62 kg CO2 -e/kg FPCM. Our milk is among the most climate efficient in the world, with most of our raw milk supply at less than half of the global estimated average.

The facts

In New Zealand, we are a signatory to the Sustainable Dairying Water Accord that works with farmers to adopt good management practices on-farm. We have excluded stock from more than 24,000 kilometres of waterways and continue to improve effluent and nitrogen management and reduce run-off through riparian planting.


Our nitrogen management programme is the first organised process in the country to collect data from farms, model the nitrogen loss and provide that information back to farmers so that they can adjust their farm systems accordingly.


New Zealand will always be our number one source of milk, but we complement it with milk sourced in Australia, Chile, Brazil, China and Europe. Sourcing milk in these markets shortens our supply chain and provides the fresh liquid milk needed to meet local demand for many of our consumer and food service products. It also allows us to meet global demand growth as well as take the New Zealand high standard of dairy farming and production to more consumers around the world.

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On average, that’s the amount of time in a cow’s day spent enjoying our natural pastures.


More than 2,600 farmers in Sri Lanka received training.



Percent of supplying farms in New Zealand have documented riparian management plans.



Supplying farms in New Zealand are participating in nutrient management reporting and benchmarking.


Waterways on supplying farms in New Zealand are fenced to keep cows out of waterways.



New ambition for 50 water catchments in New Zealand.


Reduction in New Zealand somatic cell count since 2009, a key indicator of animal health.


On-farm emissions.

19.9 million tonnes CO 2 -e emitted from supplying farms around the world.

Emissions intensity per kilogram1  
New Zealand

1kg CO2-e/kg FPCM: kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilogram of fat-and-protein-corrected milk.


Animal welfare

Healthy, well-cared-for animals are vital to producing safe, high-quality milk.