Want to Radically Slash the Methane Emissions of Dairy? Simple, Go Organic


photo: Jean/Creative Commons

Want to reduce methane emissions from dairy farming? Reminder: You should, in the US the greenhouse gas emissions from the dairy industry alone are about 2% of the nation's total. Just switching to organic methods instead of conventional intensive farming can make a big dent, not to mention improving the welfare of the animals. According to a new report done by The Organic Center (h/t to the Soil Association for pointing it out), there are a number of of quantitative and qualitative benefits of organic dairy over conventional.

On the animal welfare front, A Dairy Farm's Footprint says the rate at which dairies have to cull cows because of health problems of falling production rates are nearly half as much on organic farms with Jersey cows versus conventional farms with Holsteins (15% versus 27%).

It's worth noting that a third option exists, slaughter-free milk production, but that wasn't studied and I'll put that particular soapbox aside for the sake of this post, other than to say that this is clearly the better path.

Another stat highlighted in the report showing the superior welfare of the cows under organic methods: The average age of an organic cow by the time her milk production ceases is 6.45 years, versus 4.72 years with conventional.

On the environmental impact, this is the stat that really caught my attention:

The cows in a conventional Holstein herd produce on average about 76% more methane emissions than do organically-raised Jerseys. Remember that methane is about 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

The original report goes into much greater and broader detail comparing conventional and organic dairy, check it out: A Dairy Farm's Footprint: Evaluating the Impacts of Conventional and Organic Farming Systems [PDF]

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More on Dairy:
Meat & Dairy Matter - Changing Consumer Choices Can Cut Methane & Nitrous Oxide Emissions 84%
Cow Belch Chocolate? Cadbury's Works to Reduce Bovine Emissions
Dairy Industry Says Its Greenhouse Gas Emissions Lower Than Previously Reported: 2% of US Total
A Stinky Solutions to a Stinkier Problem: Using Garlic to Fight Cow Farts

Tags: Global Climate Change | Organic Agriculture