Dairy committed to lowering environmental impact
Commenting on today’s OECD Environmental Performance Review announcement, DairyNZ’s chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says
the dairy sector is committed to lowering its environmental impact, while protecting the valuable contribution dairying
makes to the economy.
“Dairy farming is a major driver in the New Zealand economy improving everyone’s lifestyle in this country. This is both
directly and indirectly, and in rural and urban communities,” he says.
“New Zealand’s agricultural output of greenhouse gas is accentuated because we have a relatively small population, and
we are not heavily industrialised. In other countries where there are larger populations the greater contribution is
from the transport, manufacturing, construction, and the energy sectors,” Dr Mackle says.
“Our agricultural sector is a very efficient producer of high-quality food – food that that feeds many millions, not
only in our country, but also around the world.
“We’re the most efficient producer of milk on a greenhouse gas per unit of milk basis. This is because our animals are
largely grass fed, unlike animals in many other agricultural countries which are fed grains and other supplements that
must be harvested and transported – and their animals are often housed in barns, sometimes year around, not just over
the harsh winter months.”
Dr Mackle says modern, science-based farming is the solution to finding systems that have a lower environmental imprint.
“DairyNZ is working closely with the Ministry for the Environment, Ministry for Primary Industries, AgResearch and dairy
companies on a holistic, integrated approach to address climate change, the protection of waterways and animal welfare.”
He says the future of dairy farming in New Zealand will certainly see a lower environmental footprint. One option being
fewer animals on-farm, but cows that have increased productivity – and that this requires continuing research and
“Through the genetic improvement of dairy animals, today’s cows are already more productive than in the past, and
year-on-year there are gains. Exciting work is also being done to lower greenhouse gas emissions from animals, and on
grasses that also assist in achieving further reductions.”
Dr Mackle says dairy farmers are also playing their part.
“They are putting their backs – and bank accounts – into significant environmental protection work on their farms, and
their efforts are already showing results.
“Our dairy farmers are truly embracing environmental practices on their farms, having spent more than $1 billion doing
this over the past five years. The bulk of this expenditure – around $750 million – has been spent on on-farm effluent
management systems of the type used by urban communities,” he says.
“Farmers have constructed thousands of kilometres of fencing, and bridges where animals cross creeks with the result
that dairy cows on more than 96 percent of farms no longer have access to waterways. They have also planted native
sedges, flaxes, shrubs and trees along streams to ensure optimum levels of bacteria, nutrients and sediment are
Dr Mackle says the dairy sector fully acknowledges there is considerable work to do to safeguard the environment while
maintaining the economic benefits of dairying and other agricultural sectors.
“Equally, we acknowledge the collective challenge we all face in managing nutrient and contaminant loads on waterways.
Land and water planning is underway across the country and DairyNZ, together with farmers, is working with regulators to
accurately identify the issues and arrive at solutions that achieve results.”
He says as stewards of their land dairy farmers are well along the journey that will see them handover their farms to
the next generations in a healthier environmental state.