Our Commitment to Sustainability

Canadian dairy farmers make a living from the land and are therefore naturally committed to sustainability and the environment, from the land and animals they tend to, to the water and air we all share. Find out how dairy farmers are producing the quality Canadian milk we all love in an environmentally-friendly way.

Sustainability is in our DNA

Dairy farmers have always been deeply invested in the sustainability of their farms, their animals, and their land – indeed, farmers aim not just to sustain but to improve their land over time. In Canada, dairy farms are typically passed down from generation to generation. And farmers are always motivated to run their farms in the most efficient and sustainable way possible – to succeed as a business, and because it's the right thing to do. Protecting our environmental legacy is important to Canadian dairy farmers. Doing more with less means improving productivity, reducing waste, and managing resources responsibly.

A smaller footprint

Dairy farming in Canada has a small footprint, and it's getting smaller. Today, the dairy sector represents only 1% of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. And over the years, dairy farming has made great gains in terms of cutting emissions, reducing land use, and conserving water – thanks to advances in agricultural technology, and to farmers' continuing commitment to improving various practices.

A field on a Canadian dairy farm in Québec

Emissions Reductions

We're proud to say that Canadian milk already has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world: on average, a litre of Canadian milk has half the carbon footprint compared to the global average for milk – and from 2011 to 2016, this carbon footprint decreased by 7%.

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A biodigester on a Canadian dairy farm

Renewable Energy

More and more dairy farmers are installing biodigesters, which convert the methane contained in manure into reusable energy, while continuing to use manure as a natural fertilizer. Many are also installing solar panels or wind turbines on their land, where the weather conditions are right for it.

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Screen view of a smart tractor

Improved Technology

Technology is disrupting and improving virtually every industry, and dairy farming is no exception. Forward-thinking farmers are embracing GPS-enabled smart tractors, data collection, computerized models, robotic machinery, and other high-tech farming equipment.

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What else is making a difference?

In addition to reducing emissions, using green energy, and embracing new technology, Canadian dairy farmers are also becoming more sustainable through adopting technology and practices that increase productivity and reduce their environmental footprint: 

A dairy cow smiling for the camera

Increased Efficiency

Thanks to improvements in herd management, genetics, feeding, and animal comfort, the average Canadian dairy cow produces around three times more milk than 50 years ago. Cows today are not milked more: then as now, they are milked for about five minutes at a time, two or three times a day. Instead, today's cows are simply healthier and more productive – which means fewer cows are needed overall, making for a smaller environmental footprint. 

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A female Canadian Dairy farmer in a field

Improved Nutrition

The modern dairy-cow diet is not only more nutritious: it's also specially formulated to improve cows' digestion, which in turn can help reduce the amount of methane that they naturally emit as part of the rumination process.

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A stream near a Canadian farm

Water Conservation

Water plays an important role on dairy farms: it is needed to grow crops, keep cows cool and hydrated, and clean barns and equipment. Thanks to innovative water recycling technologies, Canadian dairy farmers have managed to reduce water consumption by 6% in recent years. 

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Land management 

Between 2011 and 2016, Canadian dairy farmers reduced the amount of land needed to produce a litre of milk by 11%, through improved land management practices: 

  • Crop rotations: More diverse and strategic crop rotations lead to better soil health, meaning the soil retains more water (requiring less irrigation), more nutrients (requiring less fertilizer), and more carbon (reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere). Better soil health also means more productive fields, and a more biodiverse habitat. 
  • Manure management: Dairy farms have an abundant source of natural fertilizer in cow manure. Farmers carefully manage manure and test soils to make the best use of it in their fields. Cow manure favours microbial activity in the soil and also reduces the need for petroleum-based fertilizers.
  • Cover crops: Many farmers plant a secondary crop in their fields to help minimize potential soil erosion, increase fertility and moisture, and control against weeds, pests, and diseases – all while supporting biodiversity.
  • Tillage: Many farms have adopted reduced or no-tillage practices, such as leaving stubs and roots of a previous year’s crop in the soil, which helps capture more carbon in the soil. 

Our ongoing commitment

Whether it is our investment in the development of tools to help measure the environmental impact of dairy, our efforts in research and development, or the continued adoption of better farm practices, dairy farmers are as committed as ever to the goal of greater sustainability. We are committed to actively reducing dairy farming’s environmental impact by working with our members and industry partners to adopt and implement world class responsible farming practices for the benefit of Canadians everywhere.

What’s next?

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See how we measure the way Canadian dairy farmers put their commitments in action, from animal care to environmental sustainability.

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