Energy use, "food miles" and greenhouse gas emissions from New Zealand dairying - how efficient are we?


  • S.F. Ledgard
  • C. Basset-Mens
  • S. Mclaren
  • M. Boyes



Assessment of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with dairy products needs to account for the whole life cycle of the products, particularly with the debate about "food miles"(the transportation of product from producer to consumer). A life cycle assessment (LCA) of an average NZ dairy farm for 2005 showed that total energy use per kg milk from the "cradle-tomilk- in-the-vat" was 45-65% of that from EU farms. The greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or carbon footprint showed similar relative trends although differences were smaller due, at least in part, to lower methane efficiency from lower-producing NZ cows. Energy use associated with shipping dairy product (e.g. cheese) from NZ to UK is equivalent to about one-quarter of the on-farm use. Even when added together, the energy use from the NZ farm and from shipping would still be less than onfarm energy use for the EU farms. However, this is affected by intensification and the Dexcel Resource Efficient Dairying trial showed that increasing maize silage use, and nitrogen fertiliser use in particular, increased the energy use and GHG emissions per kg milk by up to 190% and 23%, respectively. Thus, the trend for intensification on NZ dairy farms means that our comparative advantage with EU farms is diminishing. A focus on improved farm system practices and integration of mitigation options is required to reverse this trend. Keywords: food miles, greenhouse gases, energy, life cycle assessment, milk, New Zealand, efficiency







Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 3 > >>