EU dairy conference showcases NI’s ‘significant work’ to lower carbon footprint

More than 100 European dairy industry experts are set to gather at Greenmount College today (Monday, September 30) for an international conference focusing on the sector’s carbon footprint.

The second annual EU Sustainable Dairy Symposium will be hosted by the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland in conjunction with the European Milk Forum as part of its EU Sustainable Dairy Programme.

The event is set to showcase the significant work carried out by the industry locally over the last three decades to become more environmentally sustainable.

Case studies from dairy processor Dale Farm and Northern Irish farmers (Hall Donnell of Ballymagorry, Strabane, and Hugh Harbison of Aghadowey, Coleraine) will explain the energy efficiency measures they take on-farm and at the processing site, and demonstrate the efforts made at every juncture of the supply chain to reduce carbon emissions and boost sustainability.

Keynote speakers are set to include Brian Lindsay, sustainability sector lead for the Global Dairy Platform, and Dr. Adam Drewnowski, Prof. of Epidemiology and director of the Center of Public Health Nutrition at the School of Public Health, University of Washington.

Since 1990, the Northern Ireland dairy sector has reduced fuel and electricity emissions by around 70%, manure emissions by some 27% and enteric fermentation emissions (methane emissions) by 30%, with a 50% increase in milk production in the same period.

The region’s dairy sector is making great strides in reducing its carbon footprint at a national and international level.

The role of Northern Ireland’s grasslands in carbon capture, on-farm emissions mitigation measures, the use of renewable energy sources, grassland management, and fertility management focusing on breeding more efficient cows with higher milk yields, all contribute to lowering carbon footprint.

Brian Lindsay of the Global Dairy Platform commended the Northern Ireland dairy audience on its sustainability efforts to date and provided further context for where the sector can go next.

He said: “One of the strengths of the dairy sector’s sustainability initiatives is its ability to provide local solutions to local challenges. Soil sampling, new technology and efficiency measures must be tailored to suit the needs of each individual context.”

Dr. Mike Johnston MBE, chief executive of the Dairy Council, added: “The dairy sector takes its responsibility as the custodians of the land very seriously, and we realise the importance of preserving the planet for future generations.

“The investment that has been ongoing on dairy farms throughout Northern Ireland, as well as in processing plants, is a testament to our commitment to producing milk and processing it into nutritious dairy products in ways that are efficient in minimising emissions.”

Nutrition expert Prof. Adam Drewnowski will highlight the important role that dairy can play in a healthy, sustainable diet based on its nutrient richness, affordability, appeal and environmental credentials.

Other speakers at the symposium include Dr. Debbie McConnell, dairy grassland researcher at Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), Dr. Paul Keatley, principal agricultural economist at the Department of Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs (DAERA).