Fonterra’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 at their AGM in November clearly put focus on markets and how they are now influencing their decisions on greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions. Fonterra’s messaging was stark; improve in this space or our preferred clients will look elsewhere for their milk-based products.
The encouraging aspect of Fonterra’s strategy is they are seeking a 30% reduction in intensity of GHG emissions, 2018 to 2030, when measured per tonne of fat and protein corrected milk.
In other words, increase per cow production without increasing GHG emissions.
For NZ farms this means focussing on highly digestible pasture diets and removing production impediments, which brings into play every reason to work on things such as improving milk quality (reducing mastitis), lowering lameness, lifting the reproductive performance of the herd and individual cows as well as reducing our herd replacement rates.
In many respects it is a return to a focus on improving the performance of individual heifers and cows rather than an emphasis on per hectare metrics.
Undoubtedly genetics and rumen modifiers will also add their mark as we progress toward the 2030 goal. In the meantime, we are willing to work with dairy farm owners and managers as you continue the improvement to on-farm productivity through lifting animal efficiency, feed quality and assessing all inputs.
A recent Journal of Dairy Science paper examined nutrition and its influence on methane production in dairy cows. The detail of this paper is for another edition of this newsletter but the relevant summary for NZ pasture-based farms was that improving forage digestibility (quality) and increasing the proportion of starch/non-fibre carbohydrate in the cow’s total dietary carbohydrates intake, produced sizable and consistent reductions in methane production.
A 30% reduction in methane production in the rumen is estimated to provide a 26% reduction in the carbon footprint of milk.