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Decarbonizing Dairy Farms

Project Overview 

Status: Complete (2020)

For 96% of adults, dairy is a source of essential nutrients (CISL, 2015). Moreover, dairy provides a livelihood to many smallholders in rural areas. However, dairy is responsible for 2.7% of global anthropogenic GHG emissions. Over 90% of these emissions occur before the farm gate (FAO, 2010).

The largest share of the on-farm emissions comes from enteric fermentation, which is when microbes in the rumen break down the organic matter in the food. Methane is formed during this process, which is then

predominantly belched by the cow. Other important emission sources are feed production and manure management. These emissions are inherent to cows and therefore require an approach specific to the dairy industry.

There is a wide variety in farm systems across the world, with sizes ranging from a single cow to tens or even hundreds of thousands of cows. Not only is there a wide variety in farm sizes, other aspects such as climate, type of cow or feed lot type, warrant different approaches. It is therefore essential to create an approach that can be fitted to the specifics of a farm.

​To create a farm level approach that can also be scaled up to manage decarbonization efforts across an organization, we collaborated with Nestlé. Based on expert interviews and literature, we developed a model that assesses abatement potential and cost of different abatement options. The results of this can be found in the industry report "Towards climate positive dairy farms".  

If you’d like to get in touch with us, please contact Dianne Hondeborg.

Final Project Report
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