The Big Picture
Dairy's future depends on lowering its environment footprint. Dairy farmers have some complex challenges to face.
So what are the big challenges and what is the dairy industry doing about them?
Is it acceptable that dairy cow effluent affects the quality of our waterways?
In 2002 the dairy industry made an ambitious commitment to improve dairy farms’ environmental performance with the Clean Streams Accord. Thousands of kilometres of waterways have been fenced. Hundreds of new bridges and culverts have been built to stop cows walking through water on their way to the dairy, and streams are being planted with natives to improve biodiversity and stream health. It is a sign of how far we have come in such a short space of time that we’re already setting the bar higher.
Resource use efficiency
We are living in a world where we can't afford to waste resources. Farmers are large users of fertiliser, power and water - is it going to waste?
Dairy farmers are coming up with innovative ways to use their resources more efficiently so they can be more sustainable.
In the past the application of fertiliser and nutrient rich effluent, and the use of water wasn't as efficient as it is today. Farms now have systems which manage their nutrient inputs and outputs. Thanks to technology even the way pasture is irrigated has changed so that our water resources go further. Practices and technology like these are saving costs, reducing waste and they're kinder on the environment, and we're continually working on ways to continue improving resource use efficiency.
The changing climate
Climate change affects us all. What are dairy farmers doing to reduce their impact on the environment?
Climate change increases the chances of drought, floods and the threat of tropical pests and diseases, which are a real threat to dairy. To improve farmers’ impact on the environment, the dairy industry is working to find environmental solutions that are practical and work on farms. These solutions need to reduce farmers' costs, and improve their efficiency and productivity. Dairy farmers and the dairy companies, through groups like like Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research, have invested over $19 million in the past six years on research in this area.
Dairy farming needs to continue to grow to maintain our international competitiveness and fuel the New Zealand economy, while at the same time reducing its environmental footprint.
The dairy industry is investing considerable sums in research aimed at finding ways to reduce greenhouse gases, improve nutrient management and resource use efficiency.