Dairy farmers in the Sainsbury’s Dairy Development Group (SDDG) are cutting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing their costs of production, by following a ground-breaking new carbon foot-printing programme.
The AB Agri Greenhouse Gas Model is the most in-depth measurement and monitoring initiative ever developed for use in agriculture, and is the first to receive certification from the Carbon Trust. It allows farmers to identify where losses are occurring, and highlights ways in which to curtail them.
“We have run the model with 325 SDDG farmers over the past 18 months, and all of them now know how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their farms,” says AB Agri’s Bob Beavan.
“The reductions have come from simple things like putting sensors on their yard lights so that they are not on all night, harvesting rainwater for re-use, or installing plate-coolers – a more energy efficient way of cooling milk than in the bulk tank.
“At the same time, they have also cut their unit cost of production by, for example, achieving higher yields per cow, by using their feed more efficiently, or managing their fertiliser and manure applications differently.”
The AB Agri Greenhouse Gas model, which is monitored annually by an independent assessor, requires the farmer to complete an environmental scorecard on various aspects of his farming practices, as well as input numerical data into the model.
Bob Beavan comments, “Our auditors enter the information onto our web-based system using their laptop computers, and send it directly to our main office. No other greenhouse gas model allows this or goes into this level of detail.
“At the end it provides a carbon dioxide equivalent score on a farm, per cow and per litre of milk basis. Farmers can also see how they compare with the average results of the other participants.”
At present the model is being used in the liquid milk sector. However it can be adapted to measure the carbon foot-print of a wide range of primary and processed food products.
“The combination of AB Agri’s agricultural experience and the Carbon Trust’s expertise in product carbon foot- printing has resulted in a robust model that is really working out in the field,” says Euan Murray from the Carbon Trust. “Our involvement has ensured the information calculated for each farm is PAS 2050 compliant, and comparable with results from other Carbon Trust certified product foot-printing projects.
“What is exciting about this project is that it allows farmers to compare the impact of specific farming practices, and identifies practical steps where they can cut emissions. It then calculates the size of the reductions achieved after changes have been made.”
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