US scientists to help dairy industry adapt to climate change

A broad coalition of organisations in the dairy industry made a voluntary Sustainability Commitment in 2008, to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from milk production by a quarter by 2020. As part of this, US agricultural scientists are beginning a project to improve the climate-resilience of the dairy industry; the project looks at reducing emissions as well as ways for the industry to adapt – to manage risk whilst keeping production (and profits) up.

For instance, efficiency can be improved by reducing the loss or carbon, nitrogen, and water from the dairy system, leading to a more stable supply, lower environmental impacts, and improved profits for the producers. The scientists will look at all the aspects of milk production (dairy rations and dairy cow genetics, manure handling and storage, crops, tillage and rotations) to see how they can help the industry become more resilient.

The industry’s Innovation Centre for US Dairy is also working with scientists to design tools for stakeholders, such as dairy farmers and consumers. Three of the newest include:

  • the ‘US Dairy’s Environmental Footprint​’​, a quick reference guide with information for the public about the environmental impacts of various (dairy) food choices, and the role of the dairy industry in the global food system.
  • a special issue of International Dairy Journal, with ten peer-reviewed articles discussing the results of the Centre’s life-cycle assessments (LCAs) of milk
  • FarmSmart™, an online tool for dairy farmers based on engineering research and best management practices to help dairy producers calculate their environmental footprint.