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DeLaval partners with John Deere to reduce climate impact in the dairy industry

The Milk Sustainability Center (MSC) digital ecosystem will help dairy farmers improve their operations by automating and consolidating farm data flows as well as provide valuable insights into how they can enhance both sustainability and profitability.

Growing global demand for dairy is putting pressure on natural resources such as freshwater and soil, while dairy operations produce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. At the same time, there are increasing demands on dairy farmers to adopt more sustainable practices, which involve cutting emissions, operating more efficiently and reducing costs.

Introducing a unique collaboration for more sustainable dairy farming

In the summer 2024, DeLaval and John Deere are to launch the MSC – a unique digital ecosystem that will provide farmers with a more comprehensive overview of the sustainability impacts of their dairy operations, as well as provide actionable insights. The initial version of the MSC will focus on environmental sustainability. MSC is built and powered by Dairy Data Warehouse BV (DDW), a Dutch-based company in operation for the last 10 years offering data solutions for sustainable dairy.

Dairy farmers will use the MSC to monitor carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), for their entire farm, specific fields or their herd. The MSC will also enable them to optimise their use of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium by calculating the Nutrient Use Efficiency (NUE). NUE measures the entire dairy farm cycle – from fertilising fields and using the crop to feed cows, to measuring milk and meat outputs, and manure management.

“This is the first partnership of its kind in the dairy industry,” said Joanna Daugaard, DeLaval representative for the MSC. “Bringing various companies together to support dairy farmers to become more sustainable in an open system is crucial as farms are responsible for the majority of CO2e in the food system. The MSC presents a huge opportunity to collaborate across the industry and create value for farmers.”

Automating and consolidating farm data flows

With farmers currently using several non-connected farm software solutions to run their business, the MSC is set to revolutionise how dairy farms operate on a daily basis. The cloud-based ecosystem will automate and consolidate both dairy and arable data flows into one single tool with minimal manual data entry. It will also compare a farmer’s data with an anonymised benchmark group to provide insights into potential farm improvements they can implement.

“By combining a farm’s data, the MSC will provide farmers with a more holistic perspective on farm sustainability that is centred around them and their particular farm operations,” said Daugaard. “It will also help farmers to develop much more sustainable dairy operations by identifying potential improvement areas, monitoring sustainability KPIs as well as simulating how particular improvements in their operations can promote sustainability and benefit their dairy farm.” ​

A tool to drive sustainability

The MSC has sustainability at its core and aims to reduce environ­mental risks and increase the resilience of societies and the environment. The initial version of the MSC will focus on areas where dairy farming can have the greatest positive impact – climate change and the better management of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers.  

“Dairy farms can make a significant sustainability contribution – particularly if the MSC can involve thousands of farmers around the world,” said Daugaard. “The MSC will also create an essential platform for us to share data with our partners to create greater insight into the role dairy farms can play in contributing towards profitability and environmental objectives. As this does not currently exist in the industry, the MSC will be a useful contribution to driving climate mitigation and promoting sustainability globally.”

An open eco-system

The MSC will be open for other partners to join and aims to serve dairy farmers in a way that is independent of farm machinery brands and herd management software.  

“The open and collaborative nature of the MSC ecosystem is not only a recognition that we can’t do everything ourselves and that partnering in the industry is essential – it’s also about supporting the farmer to be more sustainable,” concluded Daugaard. “This mentality of partnering on sustainability and pooling our data together with various actors across the industry will create the most powerful data tool in the industry to mitigate climate change and reduce the environmental impacts of dairy farming in general.”

The initial version of the MSC will be free of charge for farmers to subscribe to and a premium version with enhanced capabilities will be launched at a later date.

Check out the MSC website for the latest:

Could Nutrient Use Efficiency enable more sustainable dairy?

Many dairy farmers do not use Nutrient Use Efficiency (NUE) in their everyday operations, but the KPI could hold the key to more sustainable dairy farm operations with lower climate impact.

Studies show that the world currently far exceeds safe limits in terms of nitrogen and phosphorous use. Dairy farms can play an important role in optimising the use of these elements to minimise inflow to freshwater while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“At DeLaval, we see the bigger picture and what is needed to create a more sustainable dairy industry – including working with NUE, which goes beyond focusing on greenhouse gas emissions,” said Daugaard.

Doing more with less through precision farming

“Applying sufficient quantities of fertilizer is essential for attaining good feed yields and good feed quality,” explained Daugaard. “However, managing the use of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers on dairy farms is critical for farm profitability and mitigating environ­mental impact as improper fertilization and poor manure management can harm the environment.”

Improper fertilization and poor manure management can have several negative impacts, such as eutrophication that can lead to changes in aquatic life and harmful algal blooms. Greenhouse gases can also be emitted, such as nitrous oxide from fields and methane from manure lagoons. Monitoring NUE is crucial as it helps to optimise the use of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to contribute to better management practices. 

“The MSC provides a holistic life cycle approach that combines barn and field data to give a full-farm perspective, while being able to zoom in on specific herds or fields,” added Daugaard. “From a NUE perspective, it will help farmers to analyse the current state of their soils to calculate the exact amount of fertiliser they need to optimise their crop through precision farming.”

The more sustainable use of fertilizers will help promote healthy soils that can capture and store more carbon from the atmosphere. It can also avoid harming natural environments and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by maintaining healthy ecosystems.