Milk’s CO2 footprint

Ways to reduce greenhouse gases in milk production.

Climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions is a central issue of our times, affecting all parts of our society. Agriculture is the economic sector most affected by environmental change with many farms in Germany and Europe feeling the effects of the changing climate at first hand in recent years. Heavy rainfall and longer periods of rain, heat and drought have had a considerable impact on quality and substantially reducing crop yields. But in Germany, agriculture is also a contributor, responsible for 7.3 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and so must become more environmentally friendly.

DMK is helping cut greenhouse gases – The TEKLa calculation tool helps milk producers work out the carbon footprint of their milk.

Simple measurement

DMK has responded by anchoring climate protection in its corporate and sustainability strategy, and is constantly looking for ways to press ahead with these goals. One is measuring how climate-friendly milk production is, using a calculation tool called TEKLa, based on its name in German, which means agriculture greenhouse gas emissions calculator. Developed by the Chamber of Agriculture of Lower Saxony, it figures out a farm’s carbon footprint by measuring the grams of CO2 per kilogram of milk. It also shows ways farms can reduce their carbon emissions. As a first step, 120 DMK dairy farmers tested the TEKLa tool.

The tool proved highly practical and relevant to farmers’ day-to-day activities, as it focuses on areas farmers can influence directly in its calculations. The areas it measures are feeding, fertilization, production technology and electricity consumption. The farms who took part all achieved solid results.

Potential for carbon reduction

When it comes to cutting emissions, the way cows are managed is the area with the greatest potential for improvement. The most environmentallyfriendly cow is one with a high yield and a long lifespan. Cows make optimal use of their resources, and keeping them in good h health and maintaining their performance for as long as possible are key elements in reducing emissions in dairy farming.

The level and quality of home-grown fodder can also significantly reduce emissions. Using lots of forage is important, as adding feed to boost milk yield is associated with higher amounts of greenhouse gases. That’s because a lot of energy goes into producing the feed, generating additional emissions, along with the emissions created by importing the ingredients of the feedstuffs. However, cultivating fodder is also highly dependent on weather conditions, so can only be controlled to a certain degree.

Healthy cows, less CO2 – Cows who are well cared for, high yielding and long active are the most environmentally-friendly.

Long-term support

The TEKLa tool study also confirmed that the use of methane emissions for energy generation in biogas plants can make a significant contribution when it comes to reducing greenhouse gases. Each percent of farm manure that a farm ferments can reduce the carbon footprint by one gram. This also reduces greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional electricity and heat generation. Manure fermentation is considered a particularly climateefficient way to produce energy, as it avoids greenhouse gas emissions created through storage. Now that the tool has been successfully tested, a further 150 farms will start using it, to find out even more about greenhouse gases in the milk value chain, generating more facts for future discussions of the issue.

More Articles