The Dairy Council for Northern Ireland is taking part in a new three year sustainable dairy programme, jointly funded by the EU, which will highlight the important strides the sector is making to improve its environmental credentials, as well as the importance of dairy for our economy and nutritional wellbeing.
The sector has already reduced the carbon intensity of a litre of milk by 34% since 1990, and the wealth of local knowledge in the sector means it is well placed to continue making improvements with the right level of support.
Dairy farms are already involved in AFBI research programmes to improve their environmental sustainability including slurry application, land and herd management and through constantly improving efficiency.
Education programmes at CAFRE are ensuring the research findings on aspects such as slurry application, housing design and herd and land management are shared with local dairy as the basis for tackling climate change.
Commenting on the role the dairy sector can play in helping meet UK carbon emission targets, Chief Executive of the Dairy Council NI Dr Mike Johnston MBE said,
“With the Climate Change Bill, Energy Strategy, Green Growth Strategy and other relevant policy areas currently under consideration this programme will help the sector to communicate how successful it has been in tackling climate change and provide policymakers with access to valuable resources to inform future decisions.
“We have gained a wealth of knowledge through AFBI and CAFRE dairy research programmes and it is important that a scientific approach is taken to developing mitigation measures that are appropriate for our local conditions. Efforts to improve sustainability at farm and processing level should therefore be co-designed in partnership with the sector and those who have been studying the sustainability of our dairy farms for decades.
“We also have to be mindful of the various elements of a sustainable diet. The UN’s four dimensions show that we cannot focus on environmental impact in isolation: we must also consider its nutritional value, as well as the impact on the local economy and the cultural aspects of our diet.
“In Northern Ireland the dairy food group is the largest contributor to intakes of calcium, iodine, vitamin B2 and vitamin B12, supplying around a third for adults and even more in children and teenagers. Dairy therefore has an important role to play in providing a sustainable diet that is healthy, acceptable and affordable.”
The dairy sector is an important element of the Northern Ireland economy. It sustains the livelihoods of around 3,200 dairy farming families and over 2,200 employees of dairy processors around Northern Ireland. Worth almost £1.5 billion annually, the dairy sector is an important pillar in rural communities throughout Northern Ireland.
The programme is being delivered in partnership with the European Milk Forum, with funding from the European Union and will facilitate knowledge transfer with other participating dairy associations in Belgium, France, Denmark and Ireland and feed into papers and events hosted on a European level.
To view the existing sustainability information from the dairy sector visit the Dairy Council NI website www.dairycouncil.co.uk.