The U.S. dairy industry continues sustainability efforts

A sustainability leader with Dairy Management Inc. says the U.S. dairy industry has been a pioneer in improving its environmental footprint.

Lori Captain, group executive vice president of sustainability for DMI, says the industry continues to work toward ambitious goals.

“In 2020, the industry set some environmental sustainability goals to achieve by 2050. The goals include achieving greenhouse gas neutrality, optimizing water usage by maximizing recycling, and improving water quality by optimizing utilization of manure and nutrients,” she says. “So, we have these three goals that are our north star as an industry. We’re working as an industry to try to achieve those goals. We’re working in partnership throughout the value chain with others in agriculture and research and with a number of multilateral companies and organizations.”

She says there have been improvements made to reduce the amount of water needed to produce one gallon of milk.   

“The environmental impact of producing one gallon of milk in 2017 was 30 percent less than it was in 2007. That’s the equivalent of eliminating the average water consumption of about 29 million U.S. households,” she says.

Captain says dairy production is responsible for just over five percent of total U.S. water withdrawal. Of that 5 percent, 93.5 percent is used for crop irrigation for dairy feed, 3.5 percent for milk production, 1 percent for processing, and 1.9 percent for all others.

And, she says water is reused as many as four times on the farm.

“Here’s an example of what is becoming standard practice on the dairy farm. Milk leaves the cow’s body at 101 degrees. Water is used in the cooling system on the farm in the milking parlor to quickly chill that to 38 degrees. That same water that was used to cool milk is used to flush the dairy barn and then that is recaptured as a natural nutrient-rich resource in which to irrigate the crop. It is a nice, closed-loop system,” she says.

Dairy Management Inc. and its related organizations work to increase demand for dairy through research, education and innovation, and to maintain confidence in dairy foods, farms and businesses.

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