Being sustainable is important for our generation and generations to come. That’s why dairy farmers are committed to sustainability. Learn more on how dairy farming is sustainable. While this post is sponsored by Florida Dairy Farmers, all opinions and my love of dairy are my own.
Is Dairy Farming Sustainable?
Sustainability is very important to our environment. Sustainability affects the air we breathe. Sustainability affects the food we eat. But what exactly is sustainability? According to the dictionary sustainability is “avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.” Avoiding the depletion of natural resources. Now, you may do your part at home, and if you don’t I encourage you to do so.
Things you can do at home to help avoid the depletion of natural resources:
- Reduce water waste.
- Recycle. Anything and everything you can. Your recycling bin should always be fuller than your trash bin.
- Use reusable water bottles and coffee cups.
- Conserve energy. Shut those lights off!
- Buy farm fresh ingredients.
By purchasing farm fresh ingredients not only are you getting the freshest ingredients for your family, but you are also supporting farmers. Farmers work very hard to not only give us food, but to be sustainable. Sustainable agricultural practices work to protect the environment and expand the Earth’s natural resource base.
Dairy is a very important part of our diets, so may be surprised to know that producing dairy has a small impact on the environment. In 2008, U.S. dairy was the first agricultural sector to commission a life cycle assessment on fluid milk, which showed that dairy accounts for just 2% of total GHG emissions in the U.S. Since then, dairy farmers and companies have continued to find ways to reduce emissions and overall environmental footprint.
So, is dairy farming sustainable?
How are Florida Dairy Farms sustainable?
Thanks to innovative practices in cow comfort, improved feed and genetics, and modern barn design, the environmental impact of producing a gallon of milk in 2017 shrunk significantly, requiring 30% less water, 21% less land and a 19% smaller carbon footprint than it did in 2007.
Dairy farmers upcycle resources like byproducts from other agricultural industries to produce milk in a more sustainable way. Data from a nationwide study indicates U.S. dairy is responsible for only 5.1% water use and less than 2% of the U.S. total carbon footprint. It also uses just 3.7% of U.S. farmland.
The amazing Florida dairy farmers at Milking R Dairy here in Central Florida discuss sustainability in dairy farming here:
I have actually had the opportunity to tour the Milking R Dairy farm and it was an absolutely incredible experience. Dairy farming is truly a lifestyle, it’s not a job. The Rucks family (along with all dairy farmers) work for the cows, the cows don’t work for them.
How is the use of water usage in dairy farming sustainable?
I figured I would show you rather than try to explain 🙂 This way you can see how dairy farmers conserve water.
Cow feed plays an important role in a sustainable food system
Dairy cows can eat leftovers that people don’t, like almond hulls and orange peels, which would otherwise end up in landfills. Before the “leftovers” are feed to the dairy cows, they are endorsed by animal nutritionists who work hand-in-hand with dairy farmers and veterinarians to create the best diets for cows.
Florida dairy farms often use citrus pulp from all the wonderful citrus grown here in Florida, cottonseed hulls, and stale baked goods in their cow feed. Florida citrus pulp and peel is what is left after we make Florida grapefruit or orange juice. The peels and pulp are dried and converted into pellet-like feed which gives the cows energy and calcium. I know citrus always give me a little boost of energy too, I love that it does the same for our dairy cows.
Other common products in cow feed include: brewers grains, distillers grains,and hominy (mixture of corn bran, corn germ and part of the starchy portion of corn kernels), which we have a lot of in Florida as well. All the products in the feed bring different nutritional benefits like fibers, proteins, and more. Plus, cows enjoy the taste 🙂
Are dairy farmers committed to be sustainable into the future?
The Net Zero Initiative (NZI) is an industry-wide effort that will help U.S. dairy farms of all sizes and geographies continue to implement new technologies and adopt economically-viable practices in feed production, cow care, energy efficiency and manure management – making progress towards GHG emissions reductions and significant improvements in water quality and quantity and farmer livelihood, from field to farmgate.
In 2020, U.S. Dairy set aggressive new environmental sustainability goals to achieve carbon neutrality or better, optimize water usage and improve water quality by 2050. To reach these goals, the U.S. dairy supply is working together to ignite new technology, increase science-based research and collection and expand practices, resources and tools for more farmers, cooperatives and processors.
As of July 2020, 27 dairy companies representing 68% of the nation’s milk production voluntarily adopted the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment and contribute to U.S. dairy’s ability to track, aggregate and report on progress. The U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment is a social responsibility pledge through which the U.S. dairy community demonstrates its progress in important areas like animal care, environmental stewardship, food safety/traceability, and community contributions.
Florida Dairy Farmers and dairy farms all over the nation are committed to not only making sure we have nutritious milk for our families, but to sustainability.
Did you know that real milk offers a unique nutrient package that’s difficult to match in any other single food or beverage. Learn more about the health benefits of milk and be sure to thank a dairy farmer 🙂