Dairy farmers and climate change ambassadors for the dairy sector have welcomed the split gas approach taken in the Government’s Zero Carbon Bill, meaning the main agricultural gas, methane, will receive a different reduction target to carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.
“The science has been clear all along that its fair and appropriate for farmers to reduce and stabilize methane, rather than reduce it to net zero,” says Northland farmer Andrew Booth.
“But this isn’t letting our sector off easily at all. The 2030 target, to reduce methane by 10 percent by 2030, is a tough ask. It could be achievable if there is a big enough drive and buy in from farmers. But it will be a challenge.
“We are already one of the lowest emissions dairy producers in the world. For some of our best performing farmers there isn’t a lot of room to move, and other farmers will need support as they figure out what tweaks they can carry out on farm to lower their emissions.”
The best way farmers can reduce methane is by using less supplementary feed, alongside other small changes to the way a farm is managed that can increase efficiencies. By operating at best management practice farmers can make some small incremental improvements to their emissions profile.
“Every farm is unique and each farmer will need to analyse their emissions profile to understand where there may be room to improve,” says Waikato dairy farmer George Moss. “For some farmers there is a very fine balance between farming in an environmentally sustainable way and still maintaining financial security.”
Canterbury dairy farmer Theona Blom says the emissions intensity of milk solids has decreased over the last 25 years, but dairy farmers are now focused on reducing total emissions. “This means we need to make a choice not to increase production as our efficiency improves and our on farm emissions decrease. I am certain this is a change that dairy farmers are ready to make.”
“The biggest obstacles facing dairy farmers are knowledge and time,” says Ms Blom. The key to making these changes is ensuring you understand the individual situation on your farm, and where the opportunities exist for making changes that are suitable for your farm and region.
“The 2030 target is a first step. And we need to make the most of the transition period to position our farms to be profitable and sustainable over the long term.”
George Moss says there is a good future in the sector, especially for those younger farmers coming through. “Many of them already want to do things differently to how we do, just as we do things differently to the generation before us.”