Colin Williscroft, Rural Reporter
More than 100 people attended a recent DairyNZ workshop on climate change held at Lincoln University.
It was one of nine greenhouse gas workshops held around the country, run as part of the Dairy Action for Climate Change, which targeted rural professionals who wanted to hear about the science of climate change, mitigation options available to farmers, and how they could help their farmer clients reduce emissions.
“Addressing on-farm emissions – methane, which is formed when ruminant animals burp, and nitrous oxide, formed when nitrogen escapes into the atmosphere – is one of the most challenging issues facing the dairy and food producing sectors, globally and in New Zealand,” Kara Lok, DairyNZ’s senior adviser leading climate change.
“Many farmers are already doing things on-farm that lower greenhouse gas emissions; such as planting trees, and better soil management to reduce nitrogen leaching.
“Then there are the other science-based endeavours that are well under way, like the research to breed cows that produce fewer methane emissions, and the possibility of a methane inhibiting vaccine in the future.
“Many farmers are just starting this journey towards lowering their emissions, and rural professionals have an important part to play in providing consistent advice to them about how to go about it,” Lok said.
“Feedback from participants has been great. While they understand there is no silver bullet, they now know what options farmers can adopt right now. I hope this translates to the message getting out to farmers about what emissions reduction options they can implement.
“While our dairy sector is one of the most emissions efficient producers in the world, we know more action is required to address our emissions over the longer term. Rural professionals can make a difference by providing the leadership to ensure knowledge transfers to the farming community.”
Agribusiness Group consultant Katherine McCusker, who attended the Lincoln workshop, said she found the research updates that were part of the one-day event very valuable as they gave her an idea of areas where real progress was being made.
That included work being done on forages that might reduce nitrate leaching and a vaccine to reduce methane production in the rumen.
McCusker said work is continuing on those and other projects, with the next challenge for some work involving how to practically incorporate them into a farming system.
DairyNZ will run climate change workshops for farmers early next year.