European dairy co-operative Arla Foods is building a state-of-the-art commercial dairy farm in Northern Nigeria and use it as a training base for 1,000 local dairy farmers.
The co-op says its Climate Checks programme, which is one of the world's largest externally validated set of climate data from seven European countries also provides its farmers a clear blueprint of what will drive further reductions of greenhouse gas emissions on their farms over the next decade.
Arla farmers have been working steadily towards sustainable farming and implementing green opportunities on their farms, such as circular farming practices, renewable energy and biodiversity and now also Climate Checks.
A total of 7,986 farms across seven European countries have concluded a Climate Check using Arla's new standardised tool for identifying carbon footprint and the data shows that they are among the most climate efficient in the world.
"We have made a major investment in developing and implementing a solid model for measuring climate impact on a dairy farm," says Arla Foods chairman Jan Toft Nørgaard.
"The unique data set that Arla farmers have now created clearly shows which activities will accelerate our reductions over the next decade.
"We will use this to decarbonise our farms at a faster pace and share our findings with stakeholders to help drive an effective transition for the whole industry. There's a huge amount of value in this for all of us," he says.
The data has revealed five universal levers to a lower carbon footprint for dairy on all types of Arlan farms. They are:
- Better feed efficiency to improve milk yield
- Precision feeding to reduce surplus protein in feed rations
- A healthy and long life for the cow to improve milk yield
- Precise fertiliser management to reduce nitrogen surplus from feed production
- Better land use management to ensure better crop yields
The areas targeted by the five big levers are explaining the majority of the differences between the individual farms' carbon footprints. The five levers apply to all Arla farms in the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg regardless of size, geography, breed or landscape conditions.
"The data shows that all types of farms can achieve tangible results if precision farming is increased in these five areas. This helps us significantly going forward both to lower CO2e footprint and for future investments on farms to help meet our ambitious climate goals," says Nørgaard.
Arla farmers assessed and submitted data to 203 questions about their herd, feed production, energy usage. Their data has been verified by an external climate advisor, who has also helped create the farmer's action plan for further climate reductions based on the individual data.
The data confirms that Arla farmers are among the most climate-efficient dairy farmers in the world with 1.15kg of CO2e per kilo of milk including peat lands.
"We are proud of where we've got to, but we are determined to go a lot further. For us, the number is not a final result but a baseline from where we need to improve.
"The Climate Checks is a tool to guide our next steps, to accumulate more insight and transparently measure our progress going forward," says Nørgaard.
As the next round kicks off in June, Arla farmers will get access to a new digital tool that enables them to follow their own progression and to benchmark against data from other Arla farms.
The data shows that the best performing Arla farmers are able to produce a kilo of raw milk with a farm level footprint well below 0.9kg of CO2e.