Reducing Dairy Farm's Methane and other Emissions

The world's population is predicted to exceed nine billion people by 2050. The current trend of urbanisation is set to intensify and as economies grow and family incomes increase, consumption patterns are also changing. With different eating habits, the demand for beef and dairy products as well as processed food is rising.

The reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases…will be among the biggest environmental challenges in the next hundred years.

To meet this demand the agricultural sector needs to produce more safe and nutritious food. At the same time, it must secure that the conditions of the natural resources can continue to support an increase in food production. In order to do so, farmers need to contribute to the reduction of the emissions of greenhouse gases in order to protect/safeguard the life supporting ecosystems of our planet. The reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases and the management of the effects caused by global warming will be among the biggest environmental challenges in the next hundred years.

As a supplier of milking equipment, DeLaval supports dairy farmers with efficient equipment, consumables and services for their dairy production. We do so while working towards realising our company vision; to make sustainable food production possible. In other words, we aim to support our customers in reducing the environmental impact of their farms through improving milk production, farm profitability and the well-being of the people and animals involved.

This paper presents how DeLaval supports dairy farmers to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted per kilo of milk. Methane gas is the main contributor to global warming when it comes to dairy farming. 

Which Greenhouse Gases Do Dairy Farms Emit?

The emissions of greenhouse gases from a dairy farm are made up mainly of, methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2). In general, the split is 50%, 30% and 20%, respectively.

In this graph you can see how the different sources of the three gases are identified and quantified


Source: GLEAM (The Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model)

Methane gas is predominantly produced in ruminant animals’ stomachs and 95% of it released via the mouth while the animal is ruminating. 



Source: Bulletin 422/2007, International Dairy Federation (2007)

Regional differences of actual emission levels per kilo of milk produced vary widely. The differences are explained by the respective shares of different types of animals in total, livestock production and by differences in emission intensities for each product and between regions.

Feed-related emissions, including emissions from pasture management, represent the second largest category of emissions, contributing to around 36% of the total emissions related to milk and beef production.  When emissions from pasture expansion are added, feed emissions represent more than half of the emissions in specialised beef systems. Dairy systems are generally not associated with deforestation and pasture expansion.

Carbon dioxide emissions from energy use in feed supply chains represent about 10% of overall emissions. 

Emissions from energy consumption on farms and in processing are negligible in beef and around 8% of emissions from dairy.

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

There are a number of different options for dairy farmers to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions per kilo of milk produced.*

farmer walking with cows
DeLaval supports farmers by offering services and products designed to improve productivity and the welfare of animals. We believe that by focusing on cow well-being and comfort, improved herd management, and better handling of feed and manure, a more sustainable milk production can be achieved.

How DeLaval can Help Increase Productivity

Examples of ways DeLaval can help to increase productivity are listed below. Their effect on productivity depends on the current levels and the total effectiveness of the management of the farm.

Cow well-being and comfort

Cow well-being and comfort result in healthier cows producing more milk. They also contribute to better working conditions for people working on the farm. Good comfort means allowing a cow to lie down and walk without stress or injuries. This allows her to ruminate in a way that her milk yield is optimised and her to feed and be milked without experiencing hoof pain. Both help secure higher yields. In addition, proper ventilation, temperature control, and general illumination all contribute to keeping the animals productive as they are less stressed. In many ways, the same factors that make a cow comfortable also make the working conditions in a barn better for humans. More important is that healthy, stress-free cows are easier to manage and require less special attention.

DeLaval supplies a wide range of proven solutions, equipment, consumables and accessories to help farmers to optimally control the production of highest quality milk from healthy cows.

Herd management 

DeLaval offers a wide range of solutions that supports the monitoring and management of dairy  herds. In order to reduce environmental impact and resources used per kilo of milk produced it is critical to reduce the non-productive periods of an animal's life when not producing milk and to optimise yield. 

DeLaval Herd Navigator™ is an animal health tool that analyses milk to detect mastitis, ketosis, heat, reproduction and/or metabolic disorders. This groundbreaking system makes it easier to manage reproduction, feeding management, and udder health. The focus of DeLaval Herd Navigator™ is to secure that animals in heat are detected early, that calving interval and involuntary culling are reduced, and that periods with health problems - when milk needs to be discarded or lead to involuntary culling - are minimised. This actively contributes to reducing the environmental impact per kilo of milk produced by the herd. Such early detection also allows for reduced antibiotics use, which means that fewer antibiotics are discarded into waste water and manure going out from the barns. At the same time risks for antibiotic resistance build up is reduced.

For more information on our herd management solutions click here. 

Feed management

Optimised feed management reduces the environmental impact of an animal. This is done by firstly securing that the animal grows from a healthy calf to a heifer that can be inseminated early. The likelihood of getting the animal pregnant and being healthy throughout her lactations also improves if she is fed correctly. These effects result in less non-productive time being spent on growth or dry periods. The better the animal’s energy needs are met, and the less time the animal is sick while producing milk, the more milk she will yield, both during lactations and over her total lifetime. As methane gas is always produced, the shorter the non-productive periods can be the less environmental impact will be produced per kilo of milk.
cow feeding
Feed quality can be improved by using the correct feed additives. DeLaval provides additive options for high-quality silage. We also provide systems and products to improve feeding efficiency and animal performance, regardless of existing feeding strategy or farm layout.

Read more about our feeding systems and solutions such as Optimat™ here.

DeLaval also engages in scientific, technical, and commercial development related to the dairy value chain and in particular milk production. We both share our knowhow and stay informed via collaborations with industrial networks such as International Dairy Federation, Dairy Management Institute (in the US), SAI platform as well as scientific conferences such as the Greenhouse Gases & Animal Agriculture Conference. We are also associated with the scientific network on ‘Feed and Nutrition in Relation to Greenhouse Gas Emissions’. Through these contacts with researchers, we keep abreast of scientific development related to different mitigation options.

Moving forward, there are a number of large opportunities for farmers that have yet to adapt best practices and using best-available technologies. DeLaval sees the potential to go beyond the current performance levels of many systems and individual solutions that can improve productivity and reduce methane gas emissions. Our role as a supplier will be even greater as we add more automation, data collecting sensors, and management tools to our portfolio. These could include the monitoring and analysis of feed, animals and the equipment.

For an additional background on global warming and the challenges faced by the agricultural sector, please download the PDF.

The International Dairy Federation

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy®

The Sustainable Agricultural Initiative – Dairy Working Group

The Greenhouse Gases & Animal Agriculture Conference

Feed and Nutrition in Relation to Greenhouse Gas Emissions’