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30 May 2022

Managing the global hoofprint

Reducing the global climate footprint requires teamwork. No single country can do it alone. Follow Arla Foods’ sustainability strategy to see how it’s cutting carbon emissions worldwide and what you can do to slash yours.

With sustainable, climate-conscious farming in higher demand worldwide, dairy farmers must find better carbon reducing solutions without negatively affecting herd health, productivity and profitability.

Arla Foods recently published its comprehensive 2021 sustainability report titled A Sustainable Future for British Dairy, presenting analytical data from its 1,964 dairy farms across the UK.

The report aims to better understand on-farm carbon emissions, the steps you as dairy farmers can take to reduce them, and how Arla’s climate reduction strategy is on its way to slashing 30% of all global greenhouse gases by 2030.

UK dairy farmers Stephen and Christine Pickles are already cutting carbon emissions with VikingGenetics’ ProCROSS solution by their side. The pair’s milk production emission output is an impressive 0.98% CO2 -equivalent per litre produced.  

Learn more about the Pickles and their climate efforts
Saved Feed Index CFIT

A global approach; not just a UK one

Currently, Arla’s carbon emission output from milk production is amongst the lowest globally.

Arla farm owners have reduced emissions per kilogram by 23% since 1990, now producing 1.13 kilograms (kg) of CO2 per litre of milk, which is below the 2.5 kg UK average.

This figure puts Arla’s carbon efficiency up there with other high-ranking Western countries, including Uruguay (0.84 kg), Denmark (0.9 kg), New Zealand (0.91 kg) and Ireland (1.07 kg).

However, global carbon milk production emissions are still high at 2.5 kg of CO2 per litre, accounting for 2-3% of total global greenhouse gases.

India and China are two of the most significant contributors, producing 1.68 kg and 2.05 kg per litre. India’s carbon output is the same as the UK, Uruguay and New Zealand combined.

If global dairy farmers are to follow Arla and slash 30% carbon emissions by 2030—eventually hitting net-zero by 2050—more needs to be done internationally.

The question is: How?



CO2 emissions

A focus on farm management

According to Arla, farm management has a more significant effect on climate impact than farming systems, meaning you must implement various sustainable milk production and cost reduction strategies.

Healthy and fertile cows that live long in the herd help reduce the herd’s climate footprint. Long-lasting cows help secure profitability, improve animal welfare and reduce the milk’s climate footprint.

SEGES in Denmark estimated the impact of reducing the replacement rate had on climate footprint. A 40% to 30% replacement rate decrease causes a 75,000 kg CO2 eq climate footprint reduction, corresponding to an almost 6% reduction in the milk’s climate footprint.

Sexed semen and beef-on-dairy are important herd management tools to help you reduce climate impact and improve the profitability and sustainability of your herd. Creating strategies to optimise decisions regarding sexed semen use and beef matching your herd’s unique goals is essential.

Saved Feed Index CFIT

Diet matters

Cows produce a stunning 40% of global methane emissions through burping and flatulence. In the US, livestock is responsible for 37% of the country’s methane emissions, with cattle accounting for a significant portion. And, in New Zealand, its six million strong cows produce 22.4% of the country’s emissions, of which 18.7% is methane.

The reason for these high numbers comes down to diet and what you feed your cows. Arla cows, for example, are given a diet of grass (0.58 kg), concentrates and minerals (0.24 kg), grains and roots (0.11 kg), byproducts (0.02 kg) and other forages (0.02 kg).

However, according to the report, on-farm emissions still come from cow digestion (46%) and cow feed (37%) — the latter making up two-thirds of Arla’s total greenhouse gases. Therefore, ensuring an optimal diet for your dairy herd is essential.

Climate-friendly cows require consistently nutritious, sustainably grown food with no more than 16% protein for optimal health, profitability, milk production and reduced methane output.


No one size fits all

There are no blanket strategies to help you manage and reduce your dairy farm’s carbon emissions.

Each farm worldwide has its own unique needs. Climate, herd size, and feed requirements are all but three aspects you need to consider.

However, no matter the location or requirements of your farm, the Saved Feed Index in the Nordic Total Merit index (NTM) can help you breed cows with desirable traits to make your herd more sustainable, feed-efficient and cost-effective.

Learn more about the Saved feed index
Saved Feed Index CFIT

Optimise feed costs

Is it possible to breed more efficient and climate-friendly cows and improve farm returns? The answer is YES. 

With the Saved Feed Index, you can find out which bulls will bring you the best-performing cows. Cows that are more feed-efficient and climate-friendly.