Sustained Environmental Efficiency on Canadian Dairy Farms

Article 2 min

Canadian dairy has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world!
Canadians can enjoy their daily dairy products knowing that the footprint of milk produced in Canada has decreased over time and that farmers strive to continuously improve their practices and further minimize the environmental impact of their farms.

By DFC - PLC, Communications Team
A Québec dairy farmer stands in a field
Québec dairy farmer stands in a field on a farm

Highlights

  • Milk produced in Canada has a lower footprint than average; a litre produced in Canada emits 0.94 kg CO2 eq, which is less than half the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to the global average
  • Carbon footprint, water consumption and land use associated with milk production have decreased by 7%, 6% and 11% respectively, in the past 5 years
  • As a result of improvements in animal nutrition, genetics and housing, milk production per cow increased by 13% since 2011

Canadian dairy farmers continuously improve production practices

Preserving the environment is an important value for Canadian dairy farmers. To build on this longstanding commitment, two life-cycle assessments (LCA) were conducted to measure the environmental impact of milk production and identify areas of improvement.

The 2018 study, conducted by Groupe AGECO, a firm specializing in agri-food economy and corporate responsibility, characterizes the environmental performance of Canadian milk production in 2016 and compares it with data from 2011. It assesses several environmental issues, including carbon footprint, water consumption and land use.

Canadian dairy farms are efficient! Since 2011, the average annual milk production per cow has increased by 13% as a result of improvements in animal nutrition, genetics and housing.

Informed by science, farmers also continue to adopt practices that benefit the environment, such as:

Farmers also continue to adopt practices that benefit the environment, such as emptying manure storage more frequently, adopting crop rotations, increased use of precision agriculture technologies

Improved environmental impact

Producing one litre of milk in Canada emits less than half the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as compared to the global average.(1)

In 2016, producing 1L of milk in Canada generated 0.94 kg CO2 eq. in comparison with a global average of 2.5 kg CO2 eq.

Consumers can enjoy their daily dairy products knowing that the footprint of milk produced in Canada has decreased over time. Between 2011 and 2016, carbon footprint, water consumption and land use associated with milk production decreased by 7%, 6% and 11% respectively.

Carbon footprint, water consumption, and land use associated with milk production have decreased by 7%, 6%, and 11%, respectively

In 2016, Canadian milk production was responsible for generating or using 1.3% of Canada's total GHG emissions, 0.02% of southern Canada's freshwater supply and 2.9% of Canada's total agricultural land.

In 2016, dairy production generated or used 1.3% of Canada's total GHG emissions, 0.02% of southern Canada's freshwater supply, 2.9% of Canada's total agricultural land use

As a result of farmers’ increasing efficiency, productivity and innovation, Canada’s dairy footprint on the environment is minimal and decreasing. Collectively, they are committed to continue making improvements over time to further minimize the environmental impact of their farms.

For more in-depth results of the study, including context, objectives, and methodology, please consult this EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.

Sources

  1. FAO (2019). Climate change and the global dairy cattle sector. available at:
    http://www.fao.org/3/CA2929EN/ca2929en.pdf
  2. The 2012 life-cycle assessment covered milk production in 2011 while the 2018 life-cycle assessment covered milk production in 2016.
  3. Environment and Climate Change Canada (2016). National Inventory Report 1990-2016: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada. Available at: https://unfccc.int/process/transparency-and-reporting/reporting-and-review-underthe-convention/greenhouse-gas-inventories-annex-i-parties/national-inventory-submissions-2018
  4. Water Canada (2017). Statistics Canada Reports on Canada’s Renewable Freshwater and Water Use. Available at: https://www.watercanada.net/statistics-canada-reports-on-canadas-renewable-freshwater-and-water-use/
  5. Statistics Canada (2018). Land Use-Table 32-10-0406-01 (formerly CANSIM 004-0203). Available at: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=3210040601

Notes

More content like this

What’s next?

LCA Executive Summary

In-depth results of the AGECO study, including context, objectives, and methodology

Download
Five steps we take to reduce our environmental impact

Canadian dairy farmers continue to adapt and evolve, embracing new technologies and improvements in farming practices to help reduce our environmental footprint and increase sustainable farming for the future.

Learn more