Promoting biodiversity, shaping the future: DMK champions sustainable milk production

DMK commits to biodiversity based on sustainable agriculture and innovative measures – for a green future.

Biodiversity encompasses all habitats, from soil and water to land. DMK has set the maintenance of biodiversity up to 2030 as one of its strategic focus areas. The DMK Milkmaster Production Code has been making recommendations to farmers in order to preserve biodiversity since 2015.

Advocating more diversity of species on the farms.

Measures such as grassland, crop rotation, regional feed and pasture grazing in accordance with the farms’ conditions play a decisive role here. In the medium term, we would like to persuade all farmers to take part in the Milk Sustainability Module, which encourages species diversity. This module considers the cultivation of arable land and grassland, supplying them with nutrients, fertiliser management, crop protection measures and elements and areas in the landscape which are of particular ecological value such as flower strips. We want to use primarily domestic raw materials in expanding our plant-based product assortment. The legumes used for this purpose, such as peas and field beans, as well as cereals (oats in particular) can also be an important addition to crop rotation for the farmers. 

Biodiversity is not a one-way street but an opportunity for agriculture to chart new territory and engage with topics relating to species diversity. Even small, targeted measures form important building blocks of the bigger picture.

Joint pilot project by DMK and the Bodensee-Stiftung

In a joint pilot project with the Bodensee-Stiftung (Lake Constance Foundation), a private environmental and nature conservation organisation, DMK studied ten pilot farms. The Biodiversity Performance Tool (BPT), which was developed in-house, uses 78 indicators to evaluate the farms’ strengths and weaknesses and supports farmers in selecting actions to improve biodiversity.

The many advantages of genetic modification-free feeding.

The farms achieved good results in the area of GMO-free milk production, for example. GMO-free feeding not only reduced pressure on the rain forests and other ecosystems, but also supports regional feed production. 70 percent of DMK’s farmers already participate in the “Ohne-Gentechnik” (“No genetic organisms”) programme. 

The Bodensee-Stiftung evaluated the cultivation of catch crops on the farms positively. They supply the soil with organic matter in the period which otherwise would be without vegetation and contribute to protecting the environment, soil and water. 

The traceability of the operations, such as the detailed documentation of fertilisation and plant health measures was also evaluated positively. 
Permanent grassland, and therefore pasture grazing, also contributes to promoting biodiversity and to climate protection as a carbon sink. DMK therefore encourages pasture grazing as part of the Milkmaster bonus programme.

Focus on species diversity.

The project identified room for development in the field of species diversity in particular. Legumes were cultivated at only one of the farms before the project period. These plants belong to one of the most biodiverse plant families and are capable of absorbing nitrogen from the air. This reduces the requirements for mineral nitrogen and CO2  emissions. Overall, the use of catch crops is recommended based on the results of the study. It was considered important to create habitats for fauna and flora, including endangered species, and thus increase species diversity.

Concrete measures for dairy farms.

The cooperation with the Bodensee-Stiftung led to the creation of some effective steps in addition to the actions already taken, which could contribute to sustainably improving biodiversity. For example, it could be an option to leave wet areas or field tips (wedges) untouched, because unused grassland areas are important areas of retreat for ground game, birds and insects. Edge areas or tips could be left empty on large areas in particular. 

Furthermore, more legumes can be integrated into existing grasslands. Clover, for example, is a valuable source of protein, supports the soil structure and captures nitrogen. On the other hand, looking after the grassland area involves somewhat more work. 

In the area of catch crops, too, climate protection and biodiversity goals can be combined with crop cultivation goals. For example, a catch crop in maize improves the soil structure and prevents erosion. This may also be an answer to periods of drought and food shortages for animals. On the one hand more work is needed, but on the other there are many advantages.


A positive look into the future.

The pilot study has shown that established measures are already helping to promote biodiversity. However, there is still room for improvement, while the individual nature of every farm also has to be taken into account. It is crucially important to identify untapped possibilities and formulate shared goals so as to benefit from the effects of synergies between farming and biodiversity.