Dairy farms have traditionally played an important role in rural Britain.
With farmers taking great care and pride in protecting the environment. If you look out for the Red Tractor logo on produce you will know that they are produced using environmentally responsible methods.
The Dairy Roadmap
Dairy farmers’ work to protect the environment and reduce carbon emissions is being documented through the Dairy Roadmap, an initiative tracking progress in this area across the whole dairy industry. The latest progress report shows that an encouraging 61% of farmers are participating in some form of Environmental Stewardship Scheme, for example.
Protecting Our Wildlife
Britain's hedgerows, with their thriving wildlife, are actually maintained by farmers. As well as providing a natural boundary between pastures, hedges are trimmed, out of the nesting season, to provide a breeding ground for birds and other wildlife. Many dairy farmers also create 'wildlife corridors' by leaving a strip of grass around the edge of the pastures, plant trees and wooded areas and establish ponds to attract wildlife. Many farmers are signing up to environment schemes which encourage the maintenance of hedgerows, grassland, stone walls and many other aspects that are important for our countryside.
Whether it's about saving electricity or recycling, we're all becoming more aware of our carbon footprint and the importance of minimising it. As custodians of the countryside, farmers take this very seriously. It is accepted that high levels of greenhouse gases can contribute to global warming. But what are the facts about emissions from dairy farms? Liam Sinclair, Professor of Animal Science, says: "Methane is produced in the first stomach of the cow which we call the rumen. In there we find millions and billions of microorganisms that ferment the food that goes in. As a consequence, the cow produces methane which she burps out. This is part of the natural digestive process and it's something that cows have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years." This gas also exists naturally in the atmosphere and helps regulate the earth's temperature. Dairy farmers have worked hard to reduce their environmental impact.
As a result greenhouse gas emissions from UK dairy farms have declined sharply over the last 20 years and today represent just 2% of the UK's total emissions. This compares with UK transport, for example, which is responsible for 25%.
The dairy industry is working towards reducing these levels even further through the Dairy Roadmap, and concerns about climate change are also being addressed by dairy farmers on a global scale through the Global Dairy Agenda for Action on Climate Change.
Making the most of manure
Managing manure is an important aspect of dairy farming. On most British dairy farms, the manure produced is used on the land as a natural fertiliser, providing valuable nutrients for crops, including grass. Slurry - a mixture of cow manure and water - is usually stored in a slurry tank or lagoon as it may only be spread at certain times of year. Some dairy farmers - particularly those with larger farms - use anaerobic digesters to turn cows' manure into energy. The digester breaks down the manure, producing biogas that feeds a generator, which in turn produces electricity that can be fed into the National Grid.
View our moovie about dairy farming and the environment.