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  • Rights: DairyNZ and The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato
    Published 15 April 2021 Referencing Hub media
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    DairyNZ is conducting considerable research into how dairying impacts climate change as well as the impacts climate change is having on the dairy industry.

    Statements to create discussion:

    • Elena says that the impacts of dairying and agriculture on climate change are similar to any other industry or big human activity done at scale.
    • Ben talks about the moral obligation he bears as a farmer to do something about climate change.
    • Ben also mentions the effects extreme weather events are having on farming.
    • Holly says that milk production levels need to continue to feed the world but with an emphasis on reducing emissions.

    Consider what other information you may need in order to critique these statements or to justify your own statements.

    Transcript

    Dr Elena Minnée

    The impacts of dairying and agriculture on climate change are similar to any other industry or big human activity – whether that’s forestry or urbanisation – you know, anything done at scale does have an impact on the environment.

    Dr Ina Pinxterhuis

    Agriculture and dairying is emitting greenhouse gases. The most important greenhouse gas from dairy farming, the way we do it, is methane. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas – it’s more potent than carbon dioxide – and our grazing animals burp out a lot of methane.

    Holly Flay

    Methane is an incredibly important gas that’s playing a role in global warming, and we need to play our part in the dairy industry to help reduce those emissions.

    Ben Fisher

    It’s important for me as a farmer to try and find ways to mitigate our impacts on climate change, because we all live in this world and that has an impact on how we live and how we work and how we farm, so I think we’ve got a moral obligation to do something about it. DairyNZ is obviously conducting a lot of research into how dairying relates to climate change, what impact we might be having and then what impact climate change is having on us. So DairyNZ’s role here is to do the research and ask those tough questions.

    Dr Ina Pinxterhuis

    There’s a whole host of activities already that we can do to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel and use. So it is being really efficient with the inputs that you’re using, like the petrol, the diesel, that everybody else needs to look after as well. Fertiliser is an important aspect. Nitrogen fertiliser costs a lot of energy to produce. So our indirect greenhouse gas emission is quite high due to nitrogen, so reducing that helps as well.

    Ben Fisher

    Climate change has the potential to have quite severe impacts on a farm. I think climate change is certainly making things more unpredictable. We’re at the mercy of the weather often, when it comes to farming. So if climate change is making things more unpredictable, that makes it harder for farmers to plan and prepare for the seasons and what they’re going to do. And if we have extreme weather events, then that becomes costly for farmers to have to repair the damage from those extreme weather events.

    Dr Elena Minnée

    In general, we will have an increase in temperatures, but we’ll also have an increase in extreme weather events. And I think we do see this now, with flash flooding and then droughts and so forth. So our animals are going to have to become more tolerant of these extremes and how can we help them do that, whether it’s through breeding or infrastructure. The other aspect is on the pastures.

    Ben Fisher

    In my last two seasons, we’ve had to deal with quite extreme weather in the summer. So last year was an extremely dry year. We were brown and feeding out a lot of feed to our cows, and we needed to dry off early, so that meant we lost milk production, whereas this season has been almost the complete flip side of that.

    Dr Ina Pinxterhuis

    So if we have more and more summer droughts, some of our pasture species, like perennial ryegrass, don’t persist very well any more and they don’t grow much in the summer. So we’re looking at other species that might pick that up, and plantain is one of those.

    Holly Flay

    There’s just so much that needs to be discovered so that we can help the environment continue for future generations. But we also need to do it so that we can still feed the world, you know? We still need these cows to produce their milk to feed the billions of people that we’ve got in the world. But we need to do that so that we’ve got a future for that to matter. So we’re just trying to work out the best way to do that – to feed the world but do it environmentally consciously – and reducing methane wherever we can is a huge part of that.

    Acknowledgements
    Dr Elena Minnée
    Dr Ina Pinxterhuis
    Holly Flay
    Ben Fisher
    Grace Gibberd
    DairyNZ
    Graph of New Zealand’s gross greenhouse gas emissions 2018, by Ministry for the Environment, Stats NZ and data providers and released under CC BY 4.0. Crown copyright.
    Footage of flooded farmland, Henk van Zyl.
    Pan from healthy pasture to dry pasture, courtesy of Just the Job, www.careers.govt.nz/resources/tools-and-activities/just-the-job.

    Acknowledgement

    This resource has been produced with the support of DairyNZ.

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