2015 Dairy Roadmap report published in UK

By Katie Fletcher | January 26, 2016

At the close of 2015, Dairy U.K. Ltd. released the 2015 Dairy Roadmap report, showing that the U.K. dairy industry has made significant strides in its environmental performance.

The Dairy Roadmap is an initiative that represents the U.K. dairy industry’s commitment to reduce its environmental footprint. A taskforce of 25 organizations within the U.K. dairy industry define targets and produce regular reports on progress that the industry is making on environmental matters. This is the third report since the roadmap was launched in 2008. The 2015 report highlights a new set of targets for 2025, including some targets that have been expanded upon.

“This edition of the Dairy Roadmap shows clearly some of the excellent work being done by farmers and processors,” wrote Rob Harrison, chairman of the Dairy Roadmap and chairman of the NFU Dairy Board, in the report. “I am a dairy farmer and I know that my future relies on my business operating to world leading standards, whilst minimizing the impact of dairy production on the environment.”

Since the roadmap’s release in 2008, dairy processors, farmers and retailers have made some key achievements. For example, dairy processes have demonstrated a 16 percent improvement in overall energy efficiency, just exceeding the original 15 percent target. Another achievement is 77 percent of dairy holdings are now implementing nutrient management plans, and 69 percent of these farmers are updating their management plans on an annual basis.

Dairy processors have reduced relative water consumption by 15 percent, and 78 percent of farmers have implemented water efficiency methods, exceeding the 70 percent target. Dairy farmers taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on their farm has rose to 78 percent. There has also been a rise to 74 percent of liquid cartons in the dairy category which now carry the Forest Stewardship Council label to show they were made with responsibly sourced wood fiber. Another key achievement is dairy processors are now sending only 4 percent of factory waste to the landfill, down from 32 percent in 2008. The reason for this decrease is attributed to improved segregation of mixed waste, employee engagement activities, as well as greater use of energy from waste incineration and anaerobic digestion (AD) technology.

Targets that were set for 2015 include 90 percent of dairy farmers actively engaged in nutrient management planning, 65 percent of dairy-managed farmland implemented into environmental stewardship schemes, 70 percent uptake of water-use efficiency measures, and 10 to 15 percent of dairy farmers investigating or implementing at least one form of renewable energy. Others include half of dairy farmers implementing new developments or technologies to reduce emissions from agriculture, a declining trend in serious pollution incidents on-farm, and dairy farmers encouraged to calculate carbon footprints and implement carbon reduction plans.

Based upon mid-2015 government and industry statistics, the NFU estimates that farmers own or host half of AD capacity (approximately 100 installations), one-third of new renewable heat installations (over 3,000 projects), as well as 4,500 MW from nearly 600 solar farms, 500 MW from over 10,000 photovoltaic rooftops and 8,200 MW of British wind power, including up to 2,000 small and medium turbines. Biomass heating and small- to medium-scale wind turbines were present on a quarter of farms in independent information from 16 dairy farmers reporting renewables investments. “On the basis of the above evidence, it is reasonable to assume that dairy farmers have already met their 2015 target of 15 percent renewable energy uptake,” wrote Jonathan Scurlock, CEO advisor of NFU, in the report.

The report mentioned the extension of the on-farm biogas scheme to 2016. Administered by the recycling and waste organization WRAP, the fund offers grants up to £10,000 ($14,249) to undertake a feasibility study and business plan investigating the potential of AD, and capital loans up to £400,000. Thus far, 50 grants have been distributed and 42 feasibility and 15 business plans completed. The fund will continue to offer grants and loans until March 31, 2016, with sufficient budget for another 35 grants and up to 10 loans, according to the roadmap.

The roadmap also includes a few biogas case studies. One case study is Stephen Temple’s farm in Norfolk. The farm invested in an AD plant in early 2009, and the biogas is being used to generate up to 170 kW of electricity. The biogas is produced from cattle manure, whey from cheese, fodder, beet and maize silage. The energy from the biogas is used for multiple purposes including heating for cheese making, hot water, the farm house and office. Any surplus energy is sent to the national grid and used on the farm. The AD plant also provides enough energy for three holiday cottages and dries their grain using a 200-kW radiator.

Wyke Farms in Somerset is another case study where the farm adopted a 100 percent Green Initiative. In 2012, the company invested in a digester plant composed of three 4,600 cubic meter digester vessels. The plant takes unwanted biodegradable waste materials from the farm and cheese-making dairy and converts it into electrical and heat energy, which is used to power the cheese dairy and other farming operations. “I have seen that our 100 percent green commitment is yielding cost savings and efficiencies which in turn will make our business fit for the future, as well as improve the environment that we live in—many of these savings are only possible to achieve through sustainable practice,” wrote Richard Clothier, managing director of Wyke Farms.

In addition to these case studies, three AD plants are currently in operation at Dairy Roadmap sites, one at BV dairy in Shaftesbury, one at Ballyrashane Dairy in Coleraine and one at the Arla facility at Aylesbury. The roadmap states, “AD represents a significant opportunity for the dairy industry for both waste management and renewable energy production and is an excellent example of a closed-loop system.”

The report includes 2020 and 2025 targets for both manufacturers and farmers. “The progress that has been made so far is astounding and we will continue to challenge ourselves with targets for 2020 and 2025, ensuring that the dairy supply chain is world leading in environmental sustainability,” Harrison said.

The full report is available for download here.