Analytical Instrumentation & Environmental Monitoring

Reducing the carbon footprint of milk production

February 2022 Analytical Instrumentation & Environmental Monitoring

The certified Valio Carbo environmental calculator is used in monitoring the carbon balance of Valio dairy farms. In 2021, more than a thousand of them (about a quarter of all the company’s dairy farms) calculated the carbon footprint of the milk they produce, which amounted to 1,06 kilograms CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per litre. What makes these calculations significant is the fact that they cover 35% of the milk received by Valio, accounting for about 28% of Finland’s total milk production. The global average carbon footprint of milk is approximately 2,5 CO2e per litre.

The goal of Valio’s climate programme is to reduce the carbon footprint of milk’s value chain to zero by 2035. The biggest emission reductions can be achieved at dairy farms because about 85-95% of the total climate impact of milk is generated in primary production. Additionally, Valio’s goal is to significantly reduce emissions in its own production, i.e., in its factories, transport and packaging.

Valio development manager, Aleksi Astaptsev, has been developing the company’s carbon footprint calculation for four years and has trained 1800 Valio dairy farmers in the use of the environmental calculator. “A carbon footprint calculation can be done in many different ways and the result depends on the method of calculation. Likewise, the production conditions at farms also impact the carbon footprint of milk. The carbon footprint of the milk transported to Valio’s dairies typically varies between 0,7 and 1,4 CO2e per litre. We make the calculation at the most accurate level possible and with the actual figures of each farm, rather than using figures based on estimates,” Astaptsev explains.

Positive feedback

Valio Carbo gives dairy farmers an overall picture of the environmental impact of their own farms – what has a big impact and what doesn’t. The result encompasses all of a dairy farm’s activities: the number of arable hectares, the amount of grass farming, the number of cattle, the lifespan and productivity of the cows, the amount of energy and fuel used at the farm and the forage fed to the cattle. The calculator is easy to use and many dairy farmers are pleased when they see that the result is well below expectations.

“The target for 2021 was to have 500 dairy farms use the calculator. We are pleased that the interest in carbon footprint calculations has been so big that we doubled the target last year. Based on our target, all 4000 Valio farms will have calculated their milk carbon footprint in 2024,” Astaptsev adds.

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