How Arla farmers reduce dairy's carbon footprint

Dairy is part of a healthy and sustainable diet due to its nutrient density. And, as is the case for all food production, it comes with a carbon cost.

As one of the world's largest dairy cooperatives, we have a great responsibility - and at the same time a great opportunity – to do something about it.  

Since 1990, our farmer owners have reduced emissions per kilo of milk by 23 per cent. Our most recent Climate Check data shows that Arla farmers are among the most climate-efficient dairy farmers in the world with 1.15 kg of CO2e per kilo of milk. 

But this is just the beginning. The number is not a result – it’s a baseline for how to improve. 

With help from Arla’s Climate Check tool, our farmer owners now have a clear blueprint for how they can triple the speed of CO2e reductions on their farms during this decade.

Read on to find out how.

Data-driven climate action

In Arla, we have one of the world’s largest externally validated climate data sets from dairy farms.

7,986 Arla farmers from seven European countries have assessed and submitted data to 203 questions about their herd, feed production, energy usage etc. through our Climate Check tool.

Their data has been verified by an external climate advisor, who has also helped create a personalised action plan for the farmer to further climate reductions based on their individual data.  

Dairy emissions vary from farm to farm, and what is particularly interesting is to learn from the high-performers who show huge potential to reduce dairy’s carbon footprint.

The data has revealed five effective climate action areas that all Arla farmers can work with to lower their farm’s carbon footprint.

You can read a lot more about them below.

The 5 most effective climate actions on farm

More milk per feed
More milk per feed

A cow’s feed has a big influence on how much milk it produces. If farmers manage to maximise the milk per feed ratio and minimise feed waste, the milk will be more climate efficient.

Feeding precise protein amounts
Feeding precise protein amounts

Cows need protein to stay healthy and produce milk but, like humans, cows excrete unnecessary protein. Carefully measuring feed with the right protein levels means less nitrogen, a greenhouse gas, in the manure.

Healthy and happy cows
Healthy and happy cows

Cows that live a long and healthy life will produce more milk over their lifetime. A longer lifespan means the cow produces milk for a larger part of her life, which improves climate efficiency.

Just the right amount of fertiliser
Just the right amount of fertiliser

Crops grow better if they’re fertilised, but fertilisers emits greenhouse gasses. So, matching precisely the amount of fertiliser with the plants’ needs and using different methods to spread the muck can improve the yield per carbon emissions ratio.

Better feed crop yield
Better feed crop yield

A lot of our farmer owners produce feed for their cows, which is great, because imported feed – for example soy from South America – carries a higher carbon footprint. However, feed yield can also be optimised to increase climate efficiency.

Our full climate catalogue, which you can download free of charge here, contains 20 concrete actions for dairy farmers who want to become more climate efficient.

Download Arla's full climate action catalogue

Three ways Arla Farmers are going greener

Working towards Carbon Net Zero by 2050

How we measure the carbon footprint of dairy farming

Arla’s Climate Check is a tool developed specifically for our cooperative farmer owners to identify their carbon footprint and reduce emissions from dairy farming effectively.  

The farmers submit data about their:

  • Feed composition
  • Use of fertilizer
  • Number of animals
  • Manure handling
  • Crop production
  • Use of electricity, fuel and renewable energy

The Climate Checks are done every year and enable the farmers to follow their own progression and to benchmark against data from other Arla farms. 

The insights from the compiled data is also shared with politicians, research partners and industry stakeholders to help drive an effective transition for the whole dairy industry.

How Arla’s Climate Checks work