Is feeding cows from grass more sustainable?
Yes it is. In fact, from a greenhouse gas perspective, European Commission studies have proven that Ireland’s dairy industry has the lowest carbon footprint out of any other European country. This is something we are very proud of.
Nutrient rich grass is a natural ‘resource’ in Ireland which is freely available and abundant. The more fresh grass that our cows eat, the less additional food supplements they will require. This means less energy is consumed in the production and transport of food supplements. Many other dairy producing countries rely heavily on supplements and feeds; this means more transportation and more emissions.
In addition, Irish farmers do not use mechanical irrigation systems like other countries as Ireland is swept by Atlantic rain carrying water which is pure and unpolluted and provides natural irrigation for our lush meadows. Again this means less carbon emissions.
Just because we are already the best in the world, does not mean that we don’t believe in being better. Kerrygold is committed to reducing it’s environmental impact and we are actively working with our suppliers on sustainable farming practices to lower on-farm greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 16% per unit of milk production by 2018.
While carbon emissions are an important part of the sustainability agenda, our environmental focus is much broader. We only use natural ingredients in our products rather than artificial flavors and sweeteners and this is a more sustainable practice.
At farm level, we support Irish farmers to encourage wildlife which naturally controls pests and our farmers place sustainability at the heart of our farming traditions. Most Irish farms are family owned and have been handed down through generation after generation. Irish farmers take great pride in their farms, in their animals and in their role in protecting nature. They are renowned for the care they show for their animals (a practice known as animal husbandry). Irish herd and farm sizes are among the smallest in the world with an average farm size of about 60 cows per farm. This small herd size makes for a very personal and trusted relationship between the farmer and his cows and allows lots of room for our cows to move around.
In many countries, cows are intensively farmed and milked. In Ireland, we like to treat our cows differently. Our cows produce approximately 5,000 liters (1320 Gallons) per annum. An Irish cow’s milk ‘production’ is deliberately much lower than in other countries as the Irish dairy system is less intensive than countries wherein dairy cows are kept indoors, fed grain exclusively and are intensively milked.
In Ireland, our farming practices strike a happy balance between ensuring our cows live happy contented lives while enabling our farmers to enjoy a lifestyle and livelihood which is in harmony with the land and nature. While this may be less profitable in the short term, we believe that it leads to happier cows, better products and consumer trust. If you have been committed to the land for generations, short term becomes less important.