Climate variability drives on farm innovation

Nov 23, 2015

A concerted effort to reduce power costs and dairy’s environmental footprint is seeing increasing numbers of Australian producers implement more efficient, ‘green’ on farm practices.

In Athlone, Gippsland former mechanical engineer and seventh generation dairy farmer, Lindsay Anderson is harnessing solar energy to the benefit of reduced on-farm costs. Converting all his large single-phase motors to three-phase motors using variable speed drives as phase converters, Mr Anderson has implemented renewable technology throughout his business. He devised a 5 kilo-watt grid-connected solar system which supplies power to his automatic milking system, his workshop and farm house.

This system provides enough power to feedback through the grid for a payment each quarter – providing some additional income for Mr Anderson.

“This system can save me between 15 to 33% of electricity consumption,” Mr Anderson said. 

It also means there is even less diesel used on the property so the environment will also be better off.

According to dairy’s 2014 Sustainability Framework Progress Report, Mr Anderson is one of many dairy farmers adopting energy efficient procedures on farm. Since 2012 40% of farms have installed some form of renewable energy installation.

Chair of the Sustainability Framework Steering Committee, Chris Griffin said that dairy producers have always been stewards of the land, and are constantly getting smarter about energy efficiency on farm.

“Dairy farmers have a real commitment to managing land and water responsibly, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting natural resources for future generations. They are constantly reviewing their practices in response to seasonal conditions and a changing climate,” said Mr Griffin.

“As a bonus, many farmers are finding that these measures are cost effective.”

Working with Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) and Dairy Australia, the ADIC has lobbied hard to secure Government funding to support uptake of energy efficient technology on farm. Combined with industry investment, Federal and state programs have assisted farmers and manufacturers with the upfront capital costs in energy efficient or renewable energy technology, and therefore increased uptake.

The dairy industry has seen the benefit of such co-funded initiatives through Dairy Australia and the Federal Government’s Energy Efficiency Information Program. These nationwide assessments have already helped 1,400 farms. Guidelines have also been developed to complement these assessments and provide information about where energy is used in dairies, as well as identify where greater efficiency can be found.

In two years since the Sustainability Framework was implemented, manufacturers’ use of fuel and electricity has reduced by 14.5%. Together, the whole value chain is vigorously pursuing its target of reducing the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020.

“We will continue with programs and projects that are guiding the industry toward improved returns, while minimising our environmental footprint and improving the wellbeing of our people and animals,” Mr Griffin explained.

“There is still work to be done, but we are most definitely headed in the right direction.”

Earlier this year, ADF shifted its climate change policy, calling for joint industry and government investment in adopting energy efficient technologies on farm. Chair of the ADF Natural Resources Policy Advisory Group, Daryl Hoey said the revised policy highlights to Parliament, consumers and the broader community that the industry remains actively engaged in reducing its environmental impact.

“The scientific evidence, international policy, and public interest in increased climate variability justify industry action. Our whole value chain strives to continually reduce its environmental footprint, through uptake of new technologies, improved management and adoption of farming systems to suit climate variability,”

“The Australian Government can promote the industry’s effective response to climate variability through sustained investment in agriculture R, D&E and the uptake of energy efficient technologies on farm.”

This includes new solutions that both reduce emissions and improve profitability, international research collaboration, and methodologies that support a whole-farm-systems approach in reducing emissions.

“The Australian dairy industry is keenly observing the Government’s response to the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference taking place in Paris this December,” Mr Hoey said.

“We are aware the outcomes of this event may impact the Australian Government’s approach to emissions reduction policy. We want to ensure any policy initiatives do not undermine our trade exposed industry, but instead support dairy farmers’ ability to manage risk, innovate and adapt to climate variability.”

For more information on ADF's policy on carbon emissions and climate change click here

Success relies on shared ownership

Aug 18, 2015

Speaking at the annual WAFarmers’ Dairy Conference on 28 July in Busselton, ADF Director, Simone Jolliffe discussed the importance of working collectively to achieve a more sustainable future.

“The extent to which dairy succeeds in its objectives will rely on shared leadership, with everyone in the industry recognising that their contribution adds to the end goal.

“Don’t underestimate the value of your involvement or the many ways in which you can demonstrate leadership. Attending farmer discussion group meetings is one way, being here and participating today is another,” Ms Jolliffe said.

With over 90 dairy farmers, processors and industry stakeholders gathered, the one-day conference was a fantastic opportunity for members and non-members to hear from their fellow dairy farmers.

As a first generation dairy farmer at her property in Wagga Wagga, NSW as well as Deputy Chair of Dairy NSW, Ms Jolliffe said there was a need for farmers to be proactively involved with those representing their interests.

“Farmer engagement with industry bodies responsible for setting priorities whether in advocacy or research programs is key to ensuring that our policy settings truly reflect industry needs. If everyone takes part in identifying, owning and finding solutions to our challenges, the resulting decisions made will inevitably be sounder.”

Speaking alongside Ms Jolliffe at the Conference was Victorian dairy farmer and horse trainer, Anne McGrath, who shared the emotional story of her family’s challenging journey after a young farm worker was killed on their property. Telling the conference of the legal action against her family which followed the tragedy, Ms McGrath reiterated the importance of getting farm safety right for all involved.

At the Dairy Council annual general meeting later that afternoon, President Phil Depiazzi, Senior Vice President Michael Partridge and Junior Vice President Paul Ieraci were re-elected unopposed to their respective positions.

Dairy consultant, John Mulvany chaired the processor panel involving representatives from Brownes, Parmalat (Harvey Fresh) and Lion who discussed opportunities for dairy to grow in future, as well as milk price challenges. The conference concluded with a wonderful gala dinner where a number of WA dairy farmers were recognised with Dairy Australia’s Milk Quality Awards.

For more information about the event, download your copy of the conference program here


WAFarmers’ Dairy Council’s Junior Vice President, Paul Ieraci with President, Phil Depaiazzi and Senior Vice President, Michael Partidge at the conference.


ADF Director, Simone Jolliffe speaking at the WAFarmers 2015 Dairy Conference.

 

President's Message - June 2015

Jun 15, 2015

 

Whether at the farm gate or in the board room, stopping to take stock, acknowledge success and identify areas for improvement is essential to ensuring any good business remains on track to deliver desired outcomes.

Now at the half way mark for 2015, Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) is reflecting on the progress made thus far and the challenges yet to overcome, with the interests of dairy farmers and their profitability top of mind.

Volatility is a constant theme for dairy farmers and the past six months has been no different with all regions affected in some way by floods, drought and an ever fluctuating global milk price. But while there have been challenges there has also been important progress.

In March, we welcomed the Australian Government’s announcement to introduce legislation capping water buybacks in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan (MDBP) at 1500 gigalitres (GL). The 1500GL cap provides dairy farmers in the Murray-Darling Basin with much-needed certainty about future water availability to sustain their business.

ADF has also welcomed the relaxation of audit requirements for farmers in the southern-connected region of the Basin who participate the On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Programme. This policy win will be explored later on the newsletter.

ADF’s lobbying on competition policy was instrumental in securing a positive step toward reforming Australia’s flawed legislation - the introduction of a Prescribed Code of Conduct. The Prescribed Code is not perfect, but it does address several key imbalances with regard to retailers’ power over suppliers. We welcome the commitment already made by retailer Woolworths by signing onto the Prescribed Code, and expect that in the days to come all the major retailers will follow suit.

ADF will continue to monitor the Codes’ effectiveness over the next three years with a view to seek the strengthening of regulations if necessary. We will also continue to advocate for an Ombudsman to help balance the market power of major retailers.

The above ‘short list’ skims the surface of the progress made so far this year, with many challenges, and triumphs, still ahead. At the forefront of our agenda is ensuring our industry retains the confidence and trust of consumers, customers and the broader public by addressing issues of concern such as unconventional gas mining and highlighting dairy farmers’ commitment to the health and wellbeing of their cattle.

The team at ADF remains committed to ensuring Australian dairy’s voice is heard through government policies that support our industry, and working with our industry bodies to ensure dairy’s good practices are known and understood across the broader community.

Noel Campbell
ADF President

Consuming with Care: The Dairy Way

Jun 05, 2015

Producing more from less is a constant theme on Australian dairy farms. From reusing water in the milking shed, to ensuring the pasture our cows graze on can be effectively turned into milk, efficiency is the number one buzz word on farm.

Consuming resources with care underpins everything we do on farm because we know it will ensure the sustainability of our businesses, our industry and our planet in the decades to come.

This year on World Environment Day, June 5, the United Nations will reinforce the importance of consuming with care. Whether it be adopting renewable energy systems on farm or switching off the lights at the power switch, our individual decisions and actions count towards a larger goal of preserving not only the environment but the well being of humanity and our economies.

On June 5, Australian dairy will stand proud on its continuing commitment to minimising our environmental footprint as part of dairy’s broader commitment to establishing a more sustainable dairy industry. This commitment is recognised and promoted through the industry’s Sustainability Framework.

Demonstrating the interdependent nature of dairy’s profitability, well being and natural resource management, the Sustainability Framework shows the progress dairy has made thus far as well as acknowledging the work left to do by 2020.

On-farm examples of sustainable practices abound. South Australian share farmers, Andy Vickers and Belinda Wright soil tested 20 farm paddocks and were able to reduce application of phosphorus fertiliser to about one-third, meaning big cost savings, less nutrient runoff, reducing green house gas emissions and better environmental outcomes.

Overall, the industry’s Fert$mart nutrient management initiative has helped farmers, including 120 in recent months throughout Tasmania, Gippsland and South Australia, to achieve on average, a savings of approximately $12,000 per farm.

On King Island, a group of nine dairy farmers co-ordinated the installation of solar hot water systems for dairy sheds, an innovation making the most of renewable energy sources and also forecast to cut hot water costs by up to 50%.

From these grand scale projects to the everyday actions, all dairy farmers play an important role in creating a sustainable Australian dairy industry and consuming our resources with care. This includes everything from monitoring electricity consumption and equipment performance and having some level of automated irrigation to manage water use efficiently, to feeding cows a high quality diet to increase milk production and reduce green house gas emissions.

Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) has been advocating for the Federal Government’s continued funding towards energy efficiency programs, as well as enduring investment in R,D&E in the Government’s consideration of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions targets and policy.

Working with Dairy Australia, ADF has lobbied for nationwide funding for free energy efficiency assessments for dairy farmers that has already helped 1,200 farms – with another 200 due for completion by June 2015.

Supportive policy could assist farmers in tackling rising energy costs, while also contributing to the dairy industry’s – and Australia’s more broadly – environmental sustainability. We’re committed to ensuring Australian dairy’s voice is heard through government policies that support our industry, however there are many areas where we can already act to make a difference. 

 

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