Greenhouse gases and dairying – what I learned today

I attended  the GHG 101 Roadshow by DairyNZ and AgResearch this week and came away much more informed – and less alarmed – about the impacts for dairying, given  NZ has signed up to a target of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below the 2005 levels by 2030.

Regardless of what camp you are in around the causes of climate change, or even if you think it’s just a big hoax, NZ Inc. has along with a host of other countries  agreed to do our bit (the thing TrumpitLand recently backed out of). And if everyone does do their bit, yes it will make a difference. The big thing I came away from this meeting with is that “doing our bit” from a dairy farming perspective is not as daunting as I’d been led to believe. There has already been some great research in NZ and more ongoing that is both promising  – in fact some of the stuff could not only reduce GHG emissions but mean we can also be more profitable, so a rare win-win situation.

Low Hanging Fruit

A) REDUCE REPLACEMENT RATES: Lowering replacement rates through better reproductive performance and less cow wastage from the current 22-23% to say 18% could reduce GHG by 11% – so one-third of target achieved while also saving grazing fees and rearing costs. You may already know some farmers in your district consistently achieving a 15-18% replacement rate

B) SMART FEEDS: Forage rape looks to be a real star with GHG emissions of 20-30% lower than standard pasture. Other feeds like plantain, fodder beet, cereals and possibly maize silage (US trials backed maize silage but NZ trials as yet are  inconsistent) are also quite promising

C) THE HOLY GRAIL –  a vaccine: A wee bit of background for you – methane is produced when feed in the rumen is digested by microbes known as methanogens. A vaccine to inhibit these methanogens could achieve the 30% targeted reduction in one swoop! This is exciting stuff but still a fair bit of ongoing research before we see it as a viable option

 Interesting YouTube clip on 24 points about climate change


About Robert Dabb

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Robert has been involved in the rural sector his whole working life and in real estate since 2006. He has experience as a Dairy Farm Consultant and was the lower North Island Regional Manager (Shareholder Services) at Fonterra Co-operative Group from 2000 through to 2006. He holds a Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree from Massey University. He has a wide network of contacts across rural industry and enjoys professionally marketing rural and lifestyle properties. Robert together with Richard Anderson formed Rural and Lifestyle in 2012