Dairy cows

The British dairy industry has made “astounding” progress in tackling its environmental impact, according to the latest update from the Dairy Roadmap.

The 2015 report, the third to be published since the Roadmap was launched in 2008, found 78% of dairy farmers are now taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on their farms.

This is the highest percentage out of all farming sectors, claimed the report, and means the dairy industry has surpassed its original target of 50% by 2015.

Some other 2015 targets, such as 65% of dairy-managed farmland to be included within an Environmental Stewardship Scheme (ESS), and 15% of farmers using at least one form of renewable energy, were met in 2013.

The report noted the industry had since “continued to improve” its uptake of renewable energy through methods such as solar panels, wind turbines and anaerobic digestion.

Some 2015 targets were missed, with 77% of dairy holdings implementing nutrient management plans, as opposed to the 90% target .

However, the report pointed out there had been continuous improvement, and 69% of farmers were now updating their plans every year, suggesting they were both using and reviewing them.

Dairy processors have also made good progress towards the 2015 targets set out by the Roadmap.

Of the 43 large processing sites reporting into the initiative, 91% have an environment management system in place. 

Additionally, only 4% of ex-factory waste from large dairy processors was now sent to landfill, compared with 32% in 2008, with 14 sites reporting zero landfill in 2014.

“The whole supply chain is doing its bit to adhere to the programme of targets to help make the dairy supply chain more environmentally sustainable,” said chairman of the Dairy Roadmap and NFU dairy board chairman Rob Harrison.

“Despite current challenges across our industry we are continuing to work towards a shared goal and this is a fantastic example of industry collaboration.”

The dairy industry has further environmental targets to meet for 2020 and 2025, such as implementing on-farm technology to reduce emissions and increasing biodiversity at processor sites.

“These will evolve and adapt, to ensure the British dairy industry continues to work responsibly to mitigate its environmental impact to provide for a more sustainable future,” added Harrison.

The Dairy Roadmap is made up of a steering group including AHDB Dairy, Dairy UK and the NFU, and a wider taskforce including farming representatives, retailers, dairy processors, government and other industry partners.

It aims to unite the supply chain to tackle environmental and sustainability issues more effectively.