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. 


Water security linked to regional wellbeing

Apr 06, 2015

On 25 March, Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) participated in the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) Water Taskforce workshop. The agenda was focused on a discussion about the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and its measured social and economic impact on the wellbeing of people living in the Basin area.

Access to water is important in many ways for the wellbeing of rural and regional Australians. The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is Australia’s largest water reform in recent decades and significantly changes access to water in the Basin. Evaluating the impact of the Basin Plan is complex, particularly separating out the impacts as a result of the Basin Plan compared to changes that would have occurred anyway.

At the workshop, the NFF Taskforce discussed the work to date in evaluating this impact with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) and the Department of the Environment (DoE). In addition, the survey leader of the Regional Wellbeing Survey – undertaken by the University of Canberra, in collaboration with MDB Futures – shared preliminary findings of the 2014 Regional Wellbeing Survey, including trends since the 2013 survey, with the NFF Taskforce.

Among the survey findings, the Plan’s perceived impact on the Basin residents differs depending on whether they are considering the effects on their household, community, or the Basin as a whole. The survey revealed that of the 34 per cent of the survey respondents with an interest in the Basin area; approximately 55 per cent said the Basin Plan would positively or neutrally affect the health of the environment in the Basin. In comparison, over 45 per cent said it would negatively impact farmers in the community.

This highlights the need for balance between providing for agricultural production and the environment. It also demonstrates that reforms to water allocation do have impacts on regional communities. Views about the social, economic and environmental impact vary significantly across different local areas.

Dairy farmer and processor national representative body, the Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) continues to provide input towards the MDBA and DoE’s monitoring and evaluation of the Basin Plan’s impact. Last year, the ADIC contributed towards the development of the MDBA Evaluation Strategy to ensure a strong methodology and meaningful evaluation of the intended Basin Plan outcomes.

Dairy farmers have also contributed to case studies carried out in two dairy communities in 2014. Testing the impact of the Basin Plan on farmers, regional communities and the environment is important to ensure the integrity of the Basin Plan and to inform future reviews and adjustments.

The full Regional Wellbeing Survey will be released in stages throughout 2015. The community wellbeing section is anticipated to be available in May, and the farming section – which will include data on farm performance, development, barriers and farm exit – is expected to be available in June. The full survey will be available later in the year.

For more information on monitoring the Basin Plan, click here.


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