Sustainable agriculture is defined by,
“the efficient production of safe, high-quality agricultural product, in a way that protects and improves the natural environment, the social and economic conditions of the farmers, their employees and local communities, and safeguards the health and welfare of all farmed species.”
(Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform, 2010)
Our environment, and subsequently our ecology has become an area of great concern over the last few decades, leading to a pursuit of greater sustainability. For those in the agriculture industry such as dairy farmers, there is a greater reason for sustainability as the environment heavily impacts their craft. Their livelihood hinges on changing weather patterns and therefore paves the way by openly adopting more sustainable practices.
But what does sustainability look like in the dairy farm industry?
Reducing Carbon Footprint
Canadian dairy farms have one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world. Dairy farmers in Canada have worked extremely hard to increase their efficiency and productivity, implementing innovative practices and technology. To increase environmental sustainability some dairy farmers have invested in anaerobic digesters which create numerous environmental and economic benefits. Anaerobic digesters break down the organic matter and through combustion, the methane can be converted into power and heat. By increasing the use of technology farmers are able to increase their efficiency and productivity whilst reducing their emissions. (Read more here).
Understanding water consumption on dairy farms is really important. Conserving water helps to maintain the environment and ensure sustainability not to mention that it also benefits the farm! Recycling water can include reusing the same water to clean milking parlours, barn alleys, walkways and also for irrigation. Opting to plant less water-intensive crops to feed livestock is another water-saving method. There are many more strategies to save water without impacting the profitability of milk production.
Reducing & Reusing Waste
Dairy farmers take many steps to maintain the earth. The way they manage the manure of their livestock is incredibly important to sustaining the health of the environment. Like water, manure can be recycled and used in multiple ways on a dairy farm. Manure is a natural fertilizer making it an important part of the nutrient cycle, as it nourishes animals and the land.
Benefits of Acting Now
The journey towards a greener and more sustainable future for Canadian dairy farms is an ongoing one. But, by making improvements to the production and maintenance process, dairy farms can continue to reduce their environmental impact.