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Weekly Digest: Dairy’s future focused on ‘climate’

Progressive Dairy Editor Dave Natzke Published on 30 June 2021

Digest Highlights

Trinkler Dairy participating in NZI ‘Dairy Scale for Good’ pilot

Nestlé USA and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy announced that Trinkler Dairy Farm, Ceres, California, is the first dairy farm to participate in a pilot project within the Net Zero Initiative (NZI). With an initial $1.5 million investment from Nestlé, the dairy will install technology and incorporate practices designed to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with the goal of achieving a reduction of 30% by 2023 and to achieve net zero emissions within five years.

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The NZI Dairy Scale for Good pilot is an effort to help U.S. dairy farms of all sizes and geographies. With focuses on feed production, enteric methane reduction, energy efficiency and manure management, it aims to scale access to environmental practices and resources on farms, as well as to develop markets for new products and ecosystem services, helping farmers diversify revenue and enabling a self-sustaining model.

The impact of the pilot will be assessed using science-based measurement tools, and the data will be analyzed by scientists at the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy starting in 2022. Nestlé will scale the solutions implemented at Trinkler Dairy Farm to additional supplier dairy farms.

Dairy accounts for approximately 16% of Nestlé's overall U.S. carbon footprint and about 3% comes from fresh milk sourced from 13 dairy farms near Modesto, California.

Nestlé previously announced a $10 million, multiyear investment and partnership with the U.S. Dairy Net Zero Initiative.

Partnership seeks to improve climate, water in Chesapeake Bay watershed

The Hershey Company, Land O’Lakes Inc. and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay have partnered to implement on-farm best management practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

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In support of “Sustainable Dairy PA,” Hershey has committed $300,000 to the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and Land O'Lakes in helping install agricultural conservation practices on Land O'Lakes member dairy farms. The partnership includes 119 Land O'Lakes member-owners in central Pennsylvania that ship 50% or more of their milk supply to Hershey.

The funds will be used to leverage additional grant funding to implement conservation plans and innovative on-farm environmental practices. The solutions range from riparian buffer plantings that reduce stream bank erosion and improve habitat to animal waste storage systems and other sustainable farming practices to support a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution.

The partnership has the potential to reach more than 400 Land O'Lakes member farms supplying milk to Hershey as funding and support grows.

CDI launches farm-to-consumer sustainability effort

California Dairies Inc. (CDI), the largest dairy farmer-owned cooperative in California and second largest in the U.S., launched an initiative aimed at measuring, validating and further improving sustainable business practices. 

Over the coming months, a team of experts in the field of sustainability will work to quantify the current baseline status of CDI’s supply chain, as well as lay out a roadmap of goals and targets going forward.

Priority areas range from environmental stewardship to employee welfare and animal husbandry.

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Twenty years ago, CDI co-founded Dairy Cares, a nonprofit organization pursuing research and innovation in the area of sustainable dairy practices in California. According to a 2020 study in the Journal of Dairy Science, California dairies have already reduced the amount of land (89%), water (88%) and greenhouse gases (45%) per gallon of milk produced over a 50-year period.

EQUIP funding targets 10 states

The USDA is providing $10 million to support “climate-smart agriculture and forestry” through voluntary conservation practices in 10 targeted states. This assistance, available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), is available to farmers in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Among practices targeted include soil health, livestock waste management, and grazing and pasture management. Sign-up will be conducted by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offices in each state.

Senate approves climate bill

The Senate passed the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act by a vote of of 92-8. According to proponents of the bill, it will help producers generate and sell carbon credits by setting up a third-party certification process and online resource through the USDA. The National Milk Producers Federation said the bill will encourage more farmers to participate in environmental markets, a crucial part of dairy’s Net Zero Initiative. The House is considering its own version of the bill.

Global dairy carbon neutrality will require collaboration

Global milk production can reach carbon neutrality by 2050 if the industry collaborates around a common initiative that shares information and practices, according to participants at a conference hosted by the International Farm Comparison Network (IFCN).

The event connected over 1,000 dairy experts from 81 countries. Participants concluded dairy leaders must build knowledge platforms identifying resources and practices on how to reduce GHG emissions in dairy. Especially critical will be sharing that information with producers in countries with emerging dairy industries.

By utilizing information and practices that help drive increased milk yields, the IFCN Dairy Baseline 2050 shows that GHG emission per kilogram of milk globally will decline by 28% worldwide, even as dairy strives to meet a growing demand for high-quality protein. Meeting a 50% increase in dairy demand would add about 8% in GHG emissions in the next 30 years.

July 2021 Class I base dips below $17.50

The July Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) Class I base price lost some of the gain it posted in June. At $17.42 per hundredweight (cwt), it’s down 87 cents from June 2021 but 86 cents more than July 2020.

Through July, the 2021 Class I base price averages $16.31 per cwt, the highest for that seven-month period since 2017.

Last year, the July Class I base price rose more than $5 from June as the dairy industry pulled out of a COVID-19 freefall.

Dairy cull cow slaughter has slowed

The USDA’s latest monthly and weekly livestock slaughter reports reflect the slowdown in dairy cull cow slaughter that started in mid-March. On a monthly basis, January-May 2021 dairy cull cow slaughter was estimated at 1.326 million head, almost 40,000 fewer than the 1.365 million during the first five months of 2020.

Heaviest dairy culling during May 2021 occurred in the Upper Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin) at 54,600 head. That was followed by the Southwest (Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada), where 50,800 dairy cows were removed. Other regional totals were estimated at 33,400 head in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia; 26,400 head in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington; and about 25,500 head in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

During January-May 2021, 317,800 head were culled from herds in the Southwest, followed by 316,500 head from herds in the Upper Midwest.

Things you might have missed

  • Capturing the state of dairy through data is currently unusually difficult and will be for several months as the industry is entering a series of months during which year-over-year comparisons are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic’s disruptions to dairy markets one year ago, according to Peter Vitaliano, National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) chief economist, writing in the June Dairy Market Report.

  • Scientists with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have developed a new experimental vaccine to protect cattle from the bacterium that causes Johne’s disease.

  • Thirty-two percent of all U.S. acreage enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) have been designated as eligible for emergency haying and grazing due to drought, as of late June. Of those 1,021 counties, 860 were west of the Mississippi River. All counties in eight states were eligible – Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. Colorado follows closely at 98%, and South Dakota had 92% of the counties permitted. The threshold for an emergency is a documented 40% or greater loss of forage production due to the disaster event. The list is updated weekly.

  • The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) is launching a Dairy Diversity Coalition, partnering IDFA members with consulting firm Egon Zehnder, to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in the dairy industry.  end mark
Dave Natzke
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