A successful dairy business is defined by excellent leadership which is constantly making incremental changes to advance all aspects of cow welfare, resource use efficiency and people management.
Improving the dairy industry’s carbon footprint is an issue which has been moving up the political agenda for several years.
In response to public concerns and scientific research pointing to agriculture as a net contributor to climate change, many major retailers are now applying pressure to their milk processors to work with producers to significantly reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
Kynan Massey, managing director of the Massey Harpers Feed Group, believes farmers should not be expected to bear the brunt of this pressure alone.
He says the supply trade must take a leading and proactive role in helping dairy farmers meet their carbon reduction targets.
And as a business concerned about its environmental footprint, Mr Massey believes the Massey Harpers Group should lead by example.
He says: “I recognise we need to change the way we work because concerns about sustainability are not going away.
I have been measuring the environmental impact of Massey Feeds’ business for more than 20 years, starting with our mills, but encompassing every aspect of our operations so we can identify where we can improve our environmental performance.
“Adopting a holistic approach which tackles every aspect of the footprint of the products we produce from manufacture to feed out will be essential if we are to reach our goal of being carbon net zero by 2040.
“I consider there are three key areas where we can address the sustainability of our business.
“Firstly, we must consider the feed production process and the wider business operations.
This is something we have been focusing on at the Massey Harpers Group for more than two decades to ensure we minimise energy use at all stages of the feed production process.
“Secondly, we must look at the feed ingredients which are used in our products.
The UK uses an estimated 250,000 tonnes of soyameal in dairy diets each year.
Data reported at Dairy-Tech last year suggested eliminating soya on farms could reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the sector by more than 6%.
“There are now viable alternatives to soya and palm products which can be used in dairy diets with no impact on milk production or wider performance.
“Switching to more sustainable diets no longer needs to result in a compromise on feed effectiveness.
“Finally, feed efficiency is significant because there is potential to increase the amount of milk or meat which can be produced from the same amount of feed on our customers’ farms.” He points to the investment the Massey Harpers Feed Group has made in its production processes and feed delivery operations, which have already substantially reduced the company’s carbon footprint.
He says: “I am proud of the wide-ranging actions we have taken across our business to reduce the power usage in our premises by 20%.
We have also slashed fuel emissions per tonne delivered by 80% by investing in the latest vehicles and seeking to reduce the number of miles driven to deliver our feed.
“The next stage for us was to address the environmental impact of the feeds we produce.
Our new Planet dairy feeds contain no soya or palm oil and instead make use of other ingredients which are UKsourced, such as rapeseed meal, sugar beet and beans.
“We have replaced fats with non-palm alternatives.
"I recognise we need to change the way we work because concerns about sustainability are not going away"
“The dairy compound is carefully formulated using the highest quality constituents to ensure there is no loss in wellbeing and performance seen when cows are switched to the Planet range.
“Offering this product helps our farmers meet the aspirations of their processors but also allows them to reduce their own carbon footprint.” Mr Massey explains the Planet dairy compound is available with a range of different protein contents to suit the needs of individual farms depending on their feeding system and the other components in the ration.
“When feeding the Planet dairy compound, it is not only about this single product but rather it is part of the bespoke diet planning where the ration is formulated to precisely meet the needs of the cows and the milk contract.
“We are seeking to drive feed efficiency and specialist products, such as Novatan and pHix-Up, complement the ingredients in Planet dairy compounds, improving rumen function to maximise performance.” He says the levels of key parameters including total and rapidly fermentable carbohydrates and proteins are the same with the Planet range; glucogenic energy supply is matched and acid load and fibre index are comparable.
Mr Massey points to feed efficiency as the third component in the equation, suggesting this element is part of a much broader whole farm approach.
He says: “Driving efficiency so each cow can produce more milk from less feed is a key element because feed accounts for almost two-thirds of the emissions on a dairy farm.
“At Massey Harpers, our nutritionists work with farmers to identify the most appropriate ingredients to add to the ration to support improved feed efficiency.” Mr Massey believes a holistic approach must be adopted to improving sustainability if ambitious net zero targets are to be achieved within a relatively short timescale.
He adds: “Increasing efficiency of forage production and utilisation is one area where significant gains can be made as milk from forage is a key performance indicator driving efficiency and also greenhouse gas emissions.
“Similarly, optimising heifer production makes a significant contribution, because minimising the number of animals reared and reducing age at first calving will make a sizeable difference to the carbon footprint by reducing the number of non-productive animals.
“Calving down heifers at no more than two years old should be the aim.
Increasing longevity of cows across the herd is also paramount, as each additional lactation means the greenhouse gas emissions from rearing an animal are spread over a longer productive lifetime and fewer replacements are needed.
“By challenging all aspects of their business, dairy farmers will be able to identify opportunities to lower their overall carbon footprint.
At the same time, the supply trade must play its part by understanding the net carbon contribution of farm inputs and creating ways to lessen these.
“For Massey Harpers, it is about supporting our customers to help them to optimise all the parameters necessary to drive improved efficiency at the farm scale so they can produce the milk with minimal impact on the environment.”
"It is about supporting our customers to help them to optimise all the parameters necessary to drive improved efficiency at the farm scale"
Visit the series homepage for more information