Global levels of the potent greenhouse gas methane are on the rise — experiencing a larger than average increase over the last ten years in 2016 according to new findings from the World Meteorological Organization. While scientists grapple to explain the source of the surge, the U.S. dairy industry continues to take steps to reduce methane emissions, according to a dairy sustainability researcher at Cornell University.
Curt Gooch, a senior extension associate at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, researches agricultural air emissions and dairy sustainability. He says dairy farmers are using management strategies and new technology to lower their greenhouse gas footprint.
“Methane is an important greenhouse gas to understand and reduce and the sources of emissions are not fully understood world-wide. The U.S. dairy industry has been working hard to reduce methane emissions for many years even though it is a minor contributor of overall anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.
“Farmers have learned how to better manage their cows to produce more milk per unit of input and in doing so, have significantly cut enteric methane emissions since the time of World War II. They also have utilized technology to reduce the number of dairy calves needed to be raised to become a milking cow, which also reduces the industry’s greenhouse gas footprint.
“The U.S. Clean Water Act resulted in farms building long-term manure storages to protect waters of the state, but in doing so have increased the greenhouse gas emission potential from a dairy farm. However, many farms have installed anaerobic digesters to pre-process stored manure which significantly reduces the greenhouse gas emissions from long-term storages while using biogas produced by the digester to generate renewable electrical energy.
“The dairy industry continues to look for economically attainable ways to further reduce its greenhouse gas footprint, thus continuing its movement towards sustainability.”