Northern Ireland dairy industry achieves 34% reduction in carbon emissions

Northern Ireland dairy has achieved a 34% reduction in carbon emissions since 1990, despite growing by two-thirds over the same period.

The Dairy Council NI Sustainable Dairy Factbook marks the completion of a three-year campaign to promote the sustainability practices of the dairy sector in Northern Ireland.

“Overall, we have reduced our emissions in Northern Ireland by 18% in recent years,” Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots commented in the book’s foreword.

We have gone down from emitting 24 mega tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 1990 to 20 mega tonnes in 2017.

The publication ‘From Research to Practice on Northern Ireland Dairy Farms’ looks at three AFBI and CAFRE research projects carried out at scale in Northern Ireland – namely youngstock and heifer rearing, soil and catchment modelling, and efficient concentrate use, and profiles three local dairy farms which are putting into practice the learning from the research.

It also includes insight from air quality specialist Prof. Frank Mitloehner, from the University of California, on the role of dairy herds in recycling carbon from the atmosphere.

Commenting, Dairy Council NI chief executive Dr. Mike Johnston MBE said: “It is essential that the dairy sector continues fulfilling its role in the transition towards net-zero, and, therefore, we need to be mindful of the UN’s four pillars of sustainability – climate, nutrition, economy and culture.

“Without sustainable local dairy farm enterprises, we cannot achieve the ambition of a sustainable future.

We need to ensure future policy decisions and incentives are evidence-based and co-designed in partnership with the sector and subject matter experts who have been studying the sustainability of dairy farms for decades.

“One such example is the findings from an AFBI research project on soil nutrients which suggest improving the pH levels of Northern Ireland dairy grazing platforms, at a cost of £30 million, could yield an impressive sevenfold return on investment.”