Committed to Low-Carbon Dairying

At Fonterra we understand that we need to protect, enhance and regenerate our environment to safeguard opportunities for future generations.

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Our New Zealand dairy farms have a unique low-carbon footprint 

and we are committed to work together across our supply chain to continue to lead in low-carbon dairying.  

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What makes New Zealand on-farm dairy emissions so efficient?

Pasture-based farming system

Long sunshine hours and
plentiful rainfall

Good grass
and soil

Animal health and welfare

Renewable
energy

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Fonterra's low-carbon footprint on-farm

Fonterra’s New Zealand dairy supply has a lower, more efficient carbon footprint, due to:
Cows grazing
1. Our New Zealand cows are 96% grass-fedand spend more time on pasture than anywhere else in the world. 4
  • New Zealand has an ideal climate for pasture-fed dairy farming allowing outdoor grazing year-round.
  • Pasture growth is relatively high in New Zealand due to the temperate climate, adequate rainfall, and high sunshine hours. 5
  • New Zealand dairy cows spend over 350 days of a year on pasture6, which is more than anywhere else in the world.
  • Good pasture growth results in low use of domestic or imported feed crops, which are used in many global dairy systems and add to the on-farm carbon footprint.
  • High grass growth in New Zealand also results in lower fertiliser use and less nitrous oxide emissions.7
2. New Zealand has high standards of animal health and welfare.
  • The high health and welfare of New Zealand cows mean they live longer productive lives. New Zealand has an animal replacement rate of only 22% compared to 30-38% in many countries.8
     
3. Low nitrous oxide emissions from young, healthy New Zealand soils.
  • New Zealand typically has young, free-draining soils, which can result in lower greenhouse gas emissions from farmland, specifically the greenhouse gases from urine & fertiliser on-farm.9 10
Cows grazing
Little girl with cow on farm
4. New Zealand farms have relatively low energy use.
  • New Zealand electricity has a high proportion of renewable electricity (approximately 85%). 11
  • New Zealand dairy farmers have also continued to improve and adopt more efficient practices.  Over the last 25 years, New Zealand farmers have reduced on-farm emissions intensity (on-farm carbon footprint) by 20%. 12
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Explore more on Sustainability

Cows on a hill eating grass

Reducing our carbon
footprint

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Fast Facts |
November 2019

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NZMP Perspective | November 2019

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The science behind our carbon footprint 

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REFERENCES:

* The on-farm carbon footprint for Fonterra milk production in New Zealand is 0.91 kg CO2-e/kg FPCM[1] which is approximately 1/3rd the global average for milk production (reported at 2.5 kg CO2-e/kg FPCM by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, 2018)[2]. The on-farm carbon footprint for our New Zealand dairy refers to the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (which includes primarily carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide), produced up to the farm gate (before the milk is collected, processed and distributed). This factors in biological emissions from the animal, energy used on-farm, any fertiliser or feed for the cows, and land-use change. Fonterra is committed to further reducing emissions, on-farm and in our manufacturing operations.

[1] FPCM refers to Fat and Protein Corrected Milk

[2] FAO and GDP. 2018. Climate change and the global dairy cattle sector – The role of the dairy sector in a low-carbon future. http://www.fao.org/3/CA2929EN/ca2929en.pdf

[3] Note that grass and pasture may be used interchangeably. 96% is an average calculated on an ‘as consumed’ basis. Average is measured over previous three seasons data and subject to minor variation. Grass is classified as grass, grass silage, hay and forage crops. 

[4]  Based on average 97% of Fonterra’s New Zealand dairy cows’ time on pasture compared to information available on the top 15 dairy exporting countries based on their annual dairy product export volumes in 2017 .

[5] The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). NIWA website. 

[6]  Our New Zealand cows spend on average 97% of their non-milking time outside on pasture. Average is measured over the previous three seasons of data and subject to minor variation. Calculation excludes milking times because this only accounts for being off-pasture for on average up to 3 hours per day.  

[7] Ledgard, S.F. et al. 2020. Temporal, spatial, and management variability in the carbon footprint of New Zealand milk. Journal of Dairy Science Vol 3 Issue 1: 1031-1046

[8] Ledgard, S.F. et al. 2020. Temporal, spatial, and management variability in the carbon footprint of New Zealand milk. Journal of Dairy Science Vol 3 Issue 1: 1031-1046

[9] Note: As a result, a specific emissions factor for New Zealand has been established and accepted by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is 59% lower than the IPCC default used for other regions. This results in the carbon footprint of New Zealand milk to be 18% lower than when the IPCC default is used.

[10] Ledgard, S.F. et al. 2020. Temporal, spatial, and management variability in the carbon footprint of New Zealand milk. Journal of Dairy Science Vol 3 Issue 1: 1031-1046

Additional note; Some publicly available reports do not use the NZ specific factor, thus reporting higher emissions from NZ than Fonterra figures. The IPCC recommends use of locally specific emission factors when approved based on scientific analysis.  Fonterra’s methodology is in line with IPCC approach and recommendations.

[11] MBIE, 2018. Energy in New Zealand. Page 60. Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, New Zealand Government, Wellington, New Zealand.

[12] Interim Climate Change Committee (2019). Action on Agricultural Emissions. p26.