Dairy cows

A five-year initiative aims to help dairy farmers reduce methane emissions from cows, among other goals.

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, Syngenta and The Nature Conservancy this week announced the next phase of a cooperative effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve water quality and strengthen farm resilience.

The goal is to develop a program to scale the adoption of best management practices in feed and forage production and feed efficiency, according to a press release from the Innovation Center.

Since beginning last spring, the group has been working with Wisconsin dairy farmers who belong to the Foremost Farms USA dairy cooperative, which has approximately 1,000 member-owners across seven Midwest states, with support from Nestle.

The team wants to increase the number of participating farms each year.

The work is part of the U.S. Dairy Net Zero Initiative, a five-year effort started in 2020. It includes research, on-farm pilots and partner-based strategies to develop an on-farm pathway to reaching the 2050 environmental stewardship goals set by the Innovation Center.

Participants seek to reduce environmental impacts by making sustainable practices and technologies more accessible and affordable to all dairy farms.

“Innovative by their nature, U.S. dairy farmers have made great progress in reducing their environmental impact,” said Barbara O’Brien, president and CEO of the Innovation Center.

“Powerful collaborations like this provide essential support and increased knowledge and tools to help farmers in their efforts to further benefit the environment,” she said.

The initiative includes opportunities to incorporate hybrid feeds that can improve the digestibility of starch in cattle feed. The potential environmental benefits from increasing feed efficiency include less  greenhouse gas emissions.

Farmers also will be offered a toolkit of other recommended practices, including the use of cover crops and reduced tillage, to implement with support from a team of experts.

By expanding science-based research and data collection, the initiative closes knowledge gaps, improves analysis and advances practices and technologies that reduce environmental impact in feed production, methane reduction, energy efficiency and manure management.

Participants hope to break down barriers to adoptionby addressing the economic viability of technology and practices.

This can be done by realizing the value of sequestering carbon, converting manure and waste into fertilizer, renewable energy and other valuable products.

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