New research shows New Zealand dairy farmers have the world's lowest carbon footprint – at nearly half the emissions of other international producers.
AgResearch analysis released today confirmed New Zealand retained first position in low-emission dairy milk production, with an on-farm carbon footprint of 46 per cent less than the average of 18 countries studied.
The research analysed 55 per cent of global milk production, including major milk-producing countries.
New Zealand was the most efficient producer at 0.74 kg CO2e per kg FPCM (fat and protein corrected milk). The average was 1.37 kg CO2e per kg FPCM.
New Zealand was followed by Uruguay at 0.85 kg CO2e per kg FPCM, Portugal at 0.86, Denmark at 0.9 and Sweden at 1.
Peru clocked in as the highest emissions producer among the countries studied, at 3.29 kg CO2e per kg FPCM.
Peru was followed by Costa Rica at 2.96 and Kenya at 2.54.
The carbon footprint was measured in total greenhouse (GHG) emissions per kg of product.
The research compared carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions per kilogram of milk (fat and protein corrected milk – the nutritional content recognised in the study as CO2e per kg FPCM). This was an internationally recognised method.
The countries selected had published research that enabled a like-for-like comparison.
AgResearch scientists Andre Mazzetto and Stewart Ledgard led the research, following methodology in line with International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) standards.
Mazzetto said it was always challenging to compare carbon footprinting studies, due to different methods in each scientific paper.
"Here, we reviewed international studies and recalculated their footprints in a systematic way, using methods accepted internationally to provide a fair and robust comparison between different countries," Mazzetto said.
"Bearing in mind, countries may have different emission profiles and different ways of calculating their footprints for milk production, we believe we have reached the best possible comparison from the data available."
There was still potential to improve and achieve lower emissions as other countries also advanced their dairy sectors, Mazzetto said.
Commissioned by DairyNZ, the study was independently produced by AgResearch and peer-reviewed by an international specialist in Ireland.
DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said the research played a key part in understanding how New Zealand dairy farms stacked up, and informed how Kiwi farmers could be even more efficient.
"New Zealand's dairy sector is committed to remaining the most efficient producer of low emissions milk in the world. Our focus as a sector is sustaining our success as consumers and communities increasingly seek sustainably produced food," Mackle said in a statement.
There was a huge amount of work underway to support farmers to reduce emissions, Mackle said.
"New Zealand dairy farmers' hard work and investment over decades has contributed to this world-leading status. Our grass-based, outdoor grazing system is unique globally and is critical to our success."
Listen to Jamie Mackay interview Dr Tim Mackle about the results on The Country below:
With New Zealand already being so efficient, there was no silver bullet to even greater efficiency, Mackle said.
"Significant investment in research and development is needed to find solutions. Our sector is committed and has research underway. We need Government support as we adopt new knowledge, practices and technology."
Waikato dairy farmer and Climate Change Ambassador George Moss said pasture-based farming and genetic improvement were important components.
"Grass-based farms and sophisticated animal breeding are key components to our low carbon footprint but there is more we need to do as we play our part in addressing climate change," Moss said.
"We are world-leading at emissions efficient milk production, but we must continue to adapt and adopt new technology and knowledge. Our global competitors are never far behind, plus we know it is the right thing to do for our environment, our consumers and humanity as a whole."