Earth Day Tip Sheet: Sustainability and Dairying Go Hand-In-Hand

April 23, 2010

For generations, dairy farmers have engaged in sustainable practices, protecting the land and their animals in order to keep farms successful over several lifetimes. In honor of Earth Day, consider the following ways that Dairy Farmers of America, Inc. (DFA) and its farmer owners demonstrate sustainability is not just a day-long celebration but a way of life.

  • The Gold Standard Dairy Program created by DFA recognizes members not only for quality milk, but also for their land and waste management programs, the care of their animals and for being good stewards of the environment. More than 90 percent of DFA’s members have participated in the Gold Standard process.
  • It takes more than 2,000 trucks each day to haul the milk that DFA members produce. DFA works closely with milk haulers to reduce fuel use while improving safety and fleet maintenance. A pilot electronic fleet-management system in DFA-operated milk trucks collected data about fuel consumption, inspection and maintenance, routes and driving habits, saving more than $375,000 annually in DFA’s Mountain Area alone.
  • Not only have American workers become more productive in recent generations, so have cows. Today, a dairy farm needs significantly fewer cows than they did 50 years ago to produce the same amount of milk. Fewer cows mean less environmental impact.
  • Renewable energy consulting is a Farm Services program available to DFA members. Through energy audits that identify opportunities to improve on-farm efficiencies, members have realized thousands of dollars in savings.
  • Through Dairy Energy Services, DFA is helping members find opportunities for bioenergy generation on their farms. Soon, partners will be added to assist members interested in wind and solar energy.
  • During 2009, DFA plants reduced water usage by 18 million gallons and reduced enough energy to power 305 houses for a year.
  • Milk sample vials in DFA labs are being recycled, saving money on disposal costs and reducing waste.
  • In partnership with Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), DFA is working to benchmark the carbon footprint of a gallon of milk. This mammoth effort involves tracking dairy’s environmental impact from the farm to the dairy case.
  • DFA has taken an active role in DMI’s Sustainability Committee and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy to develop innovative solutions to reduce the dairy industry’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by the year 2020.