DAIRY sector leaders from
across Europe and North-ern Ireland recently gat-hered to discuss the future sustainability of the dairy sector.
The EU-funded event, which was organised by the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland, in collaboration with the European Milk Forum (EMF), brought 100 delegates to CAFRE Greenmount.
Northern Ireland has already made significant strides in dairy sustainability practices, improving its carbon footprint by 30.7 per cent between 1990 an d 2014.
Meanwhile, electricity emissions have also been reduced by 68 per cent between 1990 and 2017, whilst manure emissions have reduced by 27 per cent over the same period.
Innovative evidence-based sol-utions such as trailing shoe slurry application, soil testing, selective breeding practices, and energy efficiency measures are already being applied on farms across Northern Ireland to reduce the impact that the dairy sector has on the environment, and play a key role in improving it.
International dairy expert Donald Moore, Executive Director at Global Dairy Platform, provided insight into the role the dairy sector can play in improving the local environment and adding to the well-being of people around the world.
Addressing the symposium, he said: “The dairy sector plays a vital role in sustaining rural communities, providing employment, and safe and nutritious food for us to enjoy. The United Nations anticipates that resource usage will double by 2050, highlighting the urgent need to radically revise our approach to production and processing.
“For that reason, it’s important that we get the environmental aspects of farming and dairy processing right. This was echoed in the Paris climate agreement in 2015 which set binding commitments to limit global temperature rise and recognised that these efforts must not threaten production and food security.”
Speaking to FarmWeek prior to delivering his address, Mr Moore, who also chairs the Private Sector Mechanism of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS), said the dairy sector was “making great strides” in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, due in part to the “extra level of scrutiny” it is subjected to, but he warned “that isn’t to say there isn’t more we can do or that we’ve achieved our goal. We can still get better. Sustainability is a journey not a destination.”
He added: “Dairy is an incredibly flexible sector for farming in that it lends itself to many different styles of the enterprise, whether it’s the smaller family-run grass-fed system or the more intensive system of housing three or four hundred cattle … what drives the choice people make is the biodiversity around them and what they have to work with. This shows we need to explore all models of dairying, not just one.”
Addressing how the dairy sector in Northern Ireland operates in comparison to other countries, he praised it for being more research-led than in other parts of the world.
Dairy Council CEO, Dr Mike Johnston MBE, also addressed the symposium at Greenmount where he said: “Today we are acknowledging the work that still needs to be done, and highlighting the significant work already being done to tackle climate change, reduce emissions and take an evidence-based, scientific approach to milk production and processing.
“Not only are farmers and processors taking responsibility for their actions, they are also involved in spearheading and developing the latest sustainable dairy research initiatives.”
The Permanent Secretary at the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Dr Denis McMahon, provided an update on the environment priorities within the Northern Ireland Future Agriculture Policy Framework.