Dairy Research Helping to Tackle Climate Change
Over 100 delegates online at the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland’s third EU Sustainable Dairy symposium on 14th October heard how cutting–edge dairy research is being applied on Northern Ireland dairy farms to help the sector to continue to limit and mitigate its impact on the environment, boost sustainability and tackle Climate Change.
The theme of this year’s event ‘From research to practice on Northern Ireland Dairy Farms’ highlighted how knowledge is developed by scientists at the Agri–Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), College of Agriculture Food & Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) and put into practice on local dairy farms.
Delegates heard from keynote speakers, Edwin Poots MLA, Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, and Professor Frank Mitloehner, the University of California, Davis.
Minister Poots outlined a number of Departmental policy priorities and challenge the sector to continue working with his Department to continue to improve farm sustainability practices.
Dr Mitloehner, who researches air emissions from livestock operations, presented his findings that emissions from dairy herds form part of a vital natural cycle which helps to store carbon in fields, trees and hedges across Northern Ireland.
The Symposium is part of the third and final year of an EU funded campaign to share and celebrate the work of the Northern Ireland Dairy sector in their initiatives to help tackle climate change and protect our environment.
Reflecting on the last two years of the programme, Dr Mike Johnston MBE, Chief Executive of the Dairy Council NI says,
“Over the last two years we have focussed on the steps that farmers and processors have taken to lower their carbon footprint, tackle climate change and take care of the land while producing high quality and nutritious quality dairy products.
“We have come full circle and this year our theme focuses on the knowledge transfer relationship between AFBI, CAFRE, and Northern Ireland dairy farmers, and how they work together to find innovative solutions.. Our dairy farms have a rich family heritage and our farmers are doing all they can to ensure they protect our land and environment for future generations.”
Leading scientists, technologists and local dairy farmers spoke about how local research projects have led to significant environmental benefits on local dairy farms. Alex Higgins provided an overview of AFBI’s Soil and Catchment modelling study which has given a better understanding of nutrient management on dairy farms and helped farmers such as Ian McClelland who farms at Creevy House Farm in Loughbrickland to target soil nutrients more effectively.
Dr Conrad Ferris spoke about a partnership project with CAFRE to improve concentrate use efficiency on commercial farms including that of Omagh farmer Drew McConnell.
Martin Mulholland Senior Dairying Technologist at CAFRE also presented the sustainable youngstock rearing protocols at CAFRE, and James Brown outlined the environmental benefits he has realised from achieving a 24–month calving age at Seaview Farm in Ballywalter.
Nutrition Research and Food Legislation Manager at the Dutch Dairy Association (NZO) Dr Stephan Peters returned to give an update on the role of dairy foods in a healthy, sustainable diet in Europe – having previously spoken at the event in 2018.
For more on the EU Sustainable Dairy Programme click here