Meat & Livestock News

Australian Dairy Farmers Aim for Lower Emissions Amidst Global Sustainability Efforts


  • Australia’s dairy sector, contributing only 2% to the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, faces less pressure compared to New Zealand’s dairy industry.
  • Dairy Australia sets a voluntary target to reduce emissions by 30% by 2030, aligning with the Australian government’s Paris Accord goals.
  • The sector focuses on tools like the Dairy Carbon Calculator to help farmers measure and manage their emissions, alongside research into genetic traits and technologies for mitigation.

Despite the dairy sector accounting for a mere 2% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions—a stark contrast to New Zealand’s dairy industry, which is responsible for a quarter of its emissions—Australian dairy farmers are still committed to contributing to the nation’s Paris Accord targets. Dairy Australia, the sector’s leading body, has set a voluntary goal to cut emissions by 30% by 2030.

Elissa McNamara, Dairy Australia’s head of climate and energy, highlighted the current uncertainty around whether the Federal government will mandate specific sector reductions as part of its broader strategy to meet these targets. Despite this, the dairy industry has been proactive, with Dairy Australia providing input to the Federal process and states pursuing their own environmental objectives.

A key focus for the sector has been empowering dairy farmers to understand their greenhouse gas emissions. Although there has been no regulatory requirement to do so, about 15% of farmers have already engaged with their emissions data, aiming to stay ahead in environmental stewardship.

This initiative is part of a broader effort to prepare for any future requirements that may arise, contrasting with New Zealand’s approach, which involves multiple tools for calculating farm greenhouse gas emissions. Australia has concentrated on maintaining a unified approach by promoting just two main tools, with the Dairy Carbon Calculator (DCC) being the primary resource. Developed through dairy levy payments, the DCC is freely available to all farmers, simplifying the process of emissions measurement.

While the Australian Federal government is moving towards legislating mandatory emissions reporting, the direct impact on dairy farming is still to be determined, with dairy processors likely playing a role in 

reporting Scope 3 emissions. This approach aims to support and enable farmers rather than enforce punitive measures.

Research into mitigating the dairy sector’s greenhouse gas emissions is ongoing, including studies into genetic traits that could result in lower emissions per kilogram of milk solids produced.

Collaborative efforts, such as those with DairyNZ, and investigations into the potential of red seaweed to reduce methane in livestock, are part of a comprehensive strategy to address environmental concerns while maintaining productivity and sustainability in the dairy industry.