The actions of Ireland’s 18,000 dairy farmers to improve sustainability, reduce climate emissions and protect rural biodiversity are being highlighted in a new factbook – ‘Irish Dairy, Sustainable Ireland’.
The factbook has been published this week by the European Milk Forum (EMF) in association with the National Dairy Council (NDC).
The new publication spotlights sustainability actions currently being implemented on dairy farms across the country – in areas such as grassland and fertiliser management; low emissions slurry spreading (LESS); and measures to improve water quality and herd genomics.
These are areas which have been highlighted as priorities in the Irish government’s recently published ‘Ag-Climatise’ roadmap, as well as the EU Green Deal, Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies.
The factbook is the third annual edition produced in Ireland, as well as five other EU countries, as part of the EMF’s ‘Sustainable Dairy in Europe’ campaign, which is focused on the challenges and innovative responses to the issues of sustainability and climate change in the dairy sector.
Welcoming the launch of the factbook, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue said: “Everyday Ireland’s dairy farmers are hard at work providing healthy and nutritious milk, cheese, yoghurt and other dairy products for families home and abroad.
They play a vital role in our rural economy and they have an important part to play in helping Ireland reach our climate commitments. This factbook highlights the many actions that farmers around the country are taking to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and safeguard rural biodiversity.
“Together with my department, Teagasc and other stakeholders we want to see these practical initiatives being implemented where suitable.”
Zoe Kavanagh, Chief Executive of the NDC and spokesperson for the EMF in Ireland, said that while Ireland has the most efficient dairy production system in the EU – with low levels of carbon emissions thanks to our temperate climate and grass-based, family-farming system – there is more to be done by the sector to help Ireland reach its commitments as part of the EU’s pledge to be climate-neutral by 2050.
“From Crookhaven to Carndonagh, Omeath to Oulart, Ireland’s 18,000 dairy farmers are taking actions large and small to reduce their emissions on-farm, improve sustainability and protect rural biodiversity,” she said.
This new factbook spotlights many of these actions, including the highly scientific approach to soil fertility and grassland management; the incorporation of innovations new [protected urea], old [white clover] and technological [Low Emissions Slurry Spreading].
“It also details the focus on genetics and breeding that many farmers are incorporating to make their herds as efficient as possible, as well as the fast-expanding roll-out of solar panels and energy-efficient systems on-farm.
“Dairy farmers are also protecting and safeguarding our rural biodiversity by planting native hedgerows and trees, offering pollinator patches for bees and wasps, and by protecting watercourses on their land via the ASSAP [Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advice Programme] scheme.”
Kavanagh admitted that while it is heartening to see all the work that is being undertaken by dairy farmers across the country, there is more to be done.
“The next step is to mainstream these actions onto every suitable dairy farm across the country. Taking a practical ‘win-win’ approach to sustainability, where both the environment and the farmer benefit, is the key to further sustained reduction of emissions in the sector,” Kavanagh concluded.