Dutch dairy chain aiming for energy-neutral production

11 July 2008

The Dutch dairy sector is aiming to achieve energy-neutral production. In other words, for the whole chain – from the dairy farm to the factory – ultimately to be self-sufficient in energy. This will be achieved by generating energy from biomass and using wind and solar power.

The efforts to achieve this objective will include three pilot projects due to start shortly. A number of dairy farms in the Dutch provinces of Friesland, North-Brabant and North-Holland will build fermentation units (‘biodigestors’) to convert manure and food waste into biogas, which can then be used by local dairy factories. The projects will explore how the ‘green’ gas can be efficiently transported to the dairy factories via the existing natural gas network.

In this way the dairy businesses, operating under the umbrella of the Dutch Dairy Association (‘NZO’) and the Dutch Confederation of Agriculture and Horticulture (‘LTO Nederland’), will help achieve further reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and also reduce the reliance on fossil fuels.

An energy-neutral dairy chain brings the target of a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 within reach. This target has been agreed as part of the ‘Clean and Efficient’ programme. NZO and LTO Nederland stated during today’s ‘Ambitions of the Sustainable Dairy Chain’ conference in The Hague that the chain regards this reduction as the minimum to be achieved.

An energy-neutral dairy chain is also one of the three themes on which NZO and LTO Nederland are concentrating their efforts to improve the sustainability of the dairy chain. The ‘Cowmunity’ slogan stresses the importance that the people behind the initiative attach to animal welfare. And it is why they have chosen to support initiatives for new stabling concepts tailored specifically to the needs of the cow. Efforts are also continuing to provide dairy cows with improved access to outdoor grazing.

Under the banner of Biodiversity, NZO and LTO Nederland are emphasising that dairy products are natural products that are produced sustainably in a natural environment. And this means dairy farmers have to be able to develop their businesses in line with countryside values. The two organisations also believe that animal feed should be produced responsibly, and are committed to seeking further improvements in dairy farms’ management of the mineral cycle.