Respecting the environment is crucial and one of the everyday concerns of milk producers. The climate and health of the ecosystem have an effect on the abundance and quality of the hay, grain and corn that is produced to feed dairy herds.
There are a lot of challenges that must be met in order to develop sustainable agriculture. Producers are continuously making efforts to improve the quality of the water, develop healthy biodiversity on the farm, improve the energy efficiency of activities on the farm and reduce the use of pesticides. In addition, producers grow a wide variety of plants to feed their cows in order to avoid monoculture that depletes soil. They also leave crop residues on the surface of the soil to avoid erosion, store manure in leak-proof facilities and have the farm acreage they need to spread manure, a natural fertilizer, to nourish the soil and plants.
With supply management and collective marketing, milk producers have a sustainable agricultural model that encourages the consumption of local products. In fact, they produce just enough milk to meet the demand of Canadian consumers. By concentrating almost exclusively on the local market, they avoid transporting milk products over thousands of kilometres for export.
Furthermore, dairy sector emissions, as concerns manure management and enteric fermentation, accounted for 1.7% of the total emissions in 2007, considering that data on farming soil management is not disaggregated. Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the dairy sector fell by 20% between 1981 and 2006 thanks to environmental efforts made by milk producers and improved productivity of dairy herds. Milk producers produce all of the milk needed to fulfill the demand of their consumers, but with a lot less cows than before.
Producers are active in water management projects adopting soil conservation practices and setting up buffer strips.
Milk producers are continuing their sustainable development efforts by beginning a full life cycle analysis of dairy production that will consider the environmental, social and economic impacts of production. The results will allow them to develop a new environmental strategy, which is a first in the agricultural sector in Canada.