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25th April 2023

Reducing carbon footprint at Future Farm

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Reducing carbon footprint at Future Farm

In partnership with Cornwall Council, Duchy College, part of The Cornwall College Group (TCCG), has successfully led the initiative to reduce the carbon footprint of dairy farms.

“Agriculture bas Carbone for Dairy Farms” (ABCD), a two-year project involving Cornish and Breton dairy farmers is coming to an end, with the aim of promoting low carbon practices.

The project explored innovative approaches, with a special emphasis on diet changes that have the potential to reduce carbon footprints by up to 10%.

Duchy College, through its Future Farm programme, led the project’s initial phase, focused on reducing carbon footprints by 10% through cow diet alterations.

In Cornwall, the team conducted experiments on Duchy College’s 196-head herd block-calved from August to October.

Two groups of 62 cows, balanced by parity and predicted milk yield and quality (butterfat and protein), milked twice a day, and fed five times a day using an automated robotic feeding system were used in the trial.

The research and programme manager at Duchy College’s Future Farm dairy research facility, Paul Ward, stated, “Soya bean is used widely in dairy cattle nutrition, as it is a high-quality protein source, but also has a high carbon footprint.”

“Using a soya bean meal-free diet resulted in a significant 8.6% reduction in carbon footprint, which is a great finding for dairy farmers worldwide.” Paul continued.

The researchers found that milk production, milk quality, and body condition scores were unaffected.

In the second phase of the project, Duchy College held meetings with farmers to support them in adopting new low-carbon practices on their farms.

Saputo Dairy, Trewithen Dairy, and Rodda’s Dairy were also involved in the Cornwall branch of the project, and Dr Stephen Roderick, research manager at Duchy College’s Rural Business School, reports that the survey conducted by ABCD at the start of the project revealed that completing a carbon footprint was the most in-demand training requirement for carbon management.

In August 2022, 15 farmers from Cornwall visited farms in Brittany, while a French cohort of 15 farmers and delegates visited Cornwall in June 2022.

The exchange visits enabled Cornish and Breton farmers to share knowledge and learn from one another, with small anaerobic digestor plants on small farms without huge costs being one of the innovative low-carbon practices shared.

As the project comes to an end, Gaid Carval, economic growth officer at Cornwall Council, expressed “satisfaction with its accomplishments, which included excellent trial results, opportunities to try new farming practices, and the establishment of links between farmers and researchers in France and the UK.”

ABCD, an Interreg project co-funded by the EU, received €500,000 (£440,000) in funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), with Cornwall Council receiving €160,000 (£140,600).

The project ran from March 2021  and included Finistère Council, the Chamber of Agriculture of Brittany, and Cornwall Council, who partnered with Duchy College to deliver the work.

For more information on the range of agriculture and horticulture courses, full time or part time, available at Duchy College, visit our website or call 0330 123 4784.

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