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Dairy Scale for Good breaks down areas that can achieve net zero

Some dairy industry stakeholders are questioning what advancements the next 50 years will bring as a greater emphasis is put on reducing carbon emissions.

Caleb Harper is leading the Dairy to Scale for Good arm of the industry’s Net Zero Initiative and says while milk efficiency will remain, more focus is expected on every other area of the farm.

“Dairy becomes an ecosystem asset that is irreplaceable, this is the future that we’re all fighting for and moving towards,” he says.

Harper is modeling that idea for herds with 3,500 milking cows or more, or farms that can work through a community manure and biogas system, and believes the industry can become better than net zero in about five years.

“This is the idea to use scale to address these issues so that we can then drive down the risk of adoption, the risk of market building, and the risk of technology that exists today,” he explains.

He says manure management represents about thirty percent of a farm’s emissions source and about a third of a potential revenue source that is rapidly evolving.

“There’s been a billion dollars of investment in digesters in this space over the last few years,” he says.

He estimates digesters could conservatively add $500,000 annually for dairy farms based on low carbon fuel credit models, recaptured materials, and energy savings.

His work has divided the dairy farm into four areas of focus to reduce carbon including feed production, cow care and efficiency, on-farm energy efficiency and renewable energy usage, and manure handling and nutrient management which all could generate an economic benefit as well to farms.

“In a conservative estimate, you’re looking at about $2 per hundredweight,” he says.  “This is not environment at the cost of the dairy, this is a new product of dairies which may in the future may become $4-5 per hundredweight.”

Harper was a featured speaker this week on a Real Science lecture focusing on the dairy industry’s execution of their Net Zero Initiative.

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