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  • Writer's pictureTim Heffernan

Dairy Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Understanding the Issue and Seeking Solutions

As concerns about climate change continue to grow, the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from different sectors is coming under increasing scrutiny. One of the sectors identified as a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions is the dairy industry. In this blog post, we will explore the issue of dairy greenhouse gas emissions, their impact on the environment, and the efforts being made to address the issue.

What are dairy greenhouse gas emissions?

Dairy greenhouse gas emissions refer to the release of gasses including methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide from dairy farming operations. These gasses are produced during various stages of dairy production, including feed production, enteric fermentation (digestion) in cows, manure management, and milk processing.

Methane is the most significant greenhouse gas produced by dairy farming, accounting for around 80% of the industry's total greenhouse gas emissions. This gas is primarily produced during the anaerobic decomposition of manure solids in the waste separation lagoons and accounts for about 67% of the methane releases from a dairy. Enteric fermentation in cows' digestive systems, accounts for the other 33% of on-farm methane releases. Both of these sources also account for most of the Nitrous Oxide emissions. While the most potent greenhouse gas, it is produced in much lower quantities than methane. Approximately 53% of Nitrous Oxide is produced from enteric fermentation while the remaining 47% is generated from the waste separation lagoons. Carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are also produced during feed production, and milk processing. The impact of dairy greenhouse gas emissions on the environment

Dairy greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change, which is one of the most pressing environmental issues facing the world today. The gasses released by dairy farming operations trap heat in the atmosphere, leading to global warming and associated impacts such as rising sea levels, more frequent extreme weather events, and changes in ecosystems.

In addition to their impact on climate change, dairy greenhouse gas emissions can also have local environmental impacts. For example, manure management can lead to water pollution and air pollution, which can affect the health of both humans and animals.

Efforts to reduce dairy greenhouse gas emissions

Given the significant impact of dairy greenhouse gas emissions, efforts are being made to reduce their production. These efforts include:

  1. Improving feed efficiency: Feeding cows a diet that is more easily digestible can reduce the amount of methane produced during digestion.

  2. Some feed additives have been reported to significantly reduce Methane emissions from enteric fermentation (digestion). Studies in the U.S. and Australia have shown that adding a small amount of a red seaweed (Asparagopsis taxiformis) reduced methane enteric emissions by over 80%, while increasing average daily gain (ADG) and feed conversion ratio.

  3. Using manure for energy: Capturing and using methane from manure as a source of energy can reduce emissions while also providing a renewable energy source.

  4. Eliminating solids discharge to dairy waste separation lagoons can reduce on-farm Methane emissions by approximately 67%.

  5. Using renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power to power dairy farms can reduce emissions.

  6. Reducing food waste can reduce emissions associated with the production and disposal of food.

  7. Reducing milk waste can reduce emissions associated with milk processing.

  8. Encouraging the use of low-emission farming practices: Governments and industry organizations can encourage farmers to adopt low-emission farming practices through incentives and education.

Clean Wave’s integrated ecoFloc system has demonstrated clear water breaks, resulting in nearly complete removal of solids from dairy wastewater discharge. This also retains most of the nutrients in an organic solid produced by the system. Long fiber is extracted ahead of the ecoFloc system, and makes an ideal bedding material or can be used as a Sphagnum Peat moss replacement in container potting blends after drying in Clean Wave’s low energy drying system.


Dairy greenhouse gas emissions are a significant contributor to climate change, and efforts are being made to reduce their impact. By improving feed efficiency, using select feed additives,, and applying smarter technologies for manure management we can dramatically reduce the impact of dairy farming on the environment. In fact, it is becoming evident that methane releases from dairy farms can be virtually eliminated. As consumers, we can also play a role by choosing dairy products from farms that are committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps we will soon see a new classification of dairy products: Low Carbon Milk and Dairy Products.


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