A draft plan to slash dairying’s environmental footprint by 30% in the next 10 years will give the industry a much-needed platform on which to counter the vociferous anti-livestock lobby.
That’s the opinion of Kite Consulting’s John Allen, who said the vegan movement is using the environmental footprint of farming as its ‘trojan horse’ in the hope of converting people to their persuasion, and the fundamental idea is to remove that powerful ‘guilt’ prop.
“We see ourselves being in a war at present with vegans, and there is no point in fighting them in the social media space. We’ve already lost that battle and in the next one we have got to ensure we get our message over to policy makers as we have got to outflank them and use our wits as we are fighting for our lives.”
Speaking at last week’s Dairy Show at Shepton Mallet, he went on: “The vegans are dressing up anti-livestock farming with environmentalism, and the two do not necessarily go together.
"If we can separate them and demonstrate to society that we can as an industry reduce our carbon footprint, then I think we will win over most of the policy makers, and the vegans can carry on doing what they want and to live how they wish.
“In the next 10 years we believe we can reduce the carbon footprint by up to 30% and I think that could deliver guilt-free dairy to a lot of consumers who are currently being made to feel guilty about consuming dairy and livestock products,” he declared.
“We need to offer reassurance to policy makers that we can deliver on this to prevent legislation that will come down the line if we do nothing, and create problems for our industry.”
One of the targets was to increase milk yields rather than putting on more and more cows with their resultant slurry and methane emissions. He predicted yields would need to go up from just under the present 8,000kg to 10,500kg, and even with some herds doing 15,000kg and 1,000kg solids.
He said this could be brought about by the use of genomics and using some of the latest technology such as remote sensing for temperature, rumination and lying time, which would improve health and fertility.
With enhanced fertility alone, he said that if days in milk can be reduced from 210 days to 170 that would probably put on 500-600kg milk straight away, and that if pregnancy rates could be raised from 20 to 25% that would drive massive benefits in terms of feed conversion efficiency through a more productive national herd.
The plan was to officially launch the strategy document in two months’ time, and although he had not yet put the idea before Defra, he had been in talks with supply chain representatives who were ‘positive’ about it.