Dairy project on the radio

Slider_2000px_Sineka Munidasa-RA-Fodder for the Future project_Dookie_0300
Slider_2000px_Sineka Munidasa-RA-Fodder for the Future project_Dookie_0300

ABC Goulburn Murray  

New study aims to help dairy farmers understand cow-diet impact on greenhouse-gas emissions

Rural Report, Tuesday 11 June 2024, 6:15am 


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A new study seeks to help dairy farmers in northern Victoria better understand the link between cow diets and greenhouse-gas emissions. The research, a collaboration between the Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption & Innovation Hub, led by partner The University of Melbourne, with funding from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), was co-funded by Murray Dairy.


Faith Tabalujan, Rural Reporter with ABC Goulburn Murray Radio, interviewed Dr Paul Cheng, Senior Lecturer in Livestock Nutrition & Grazing Management at Melbourne Uni’s Dookie Campus, and Yvette Williams, Research & Innovation Coordinator at Murray Dairy, to delve into the findings.

“Whether it’s grass or grain, dairy farmers put a lot of thought into what they feed their cows. But how about what comes out the other side?” Faith Tabalujan asked.

Dr Paul Cheng
Dr Paul Cheng

Dr Paul Cheng explained, “Enteric methane emission really is a byproduct from the livestock digestive system, so it is a potent gas which contributes to climate change – also known as a greenhouse gas.”

Main enteric emissions not from dairy


When asked if dairy farms emit more of these kinds of emissions than other farming systems, Dr Cheng clarified, “Not necessarily. Looking at recent data from Australia, the main methane emissions come from cattle production rather than dairy-cattle production. Non-dairy cattle production represents roughly 50-60% of the total methane emission from agricultural production, whereas dairy cows in Australia represent about 20%.”

Discussing the study’s methodology, Dr Cheng elaborated, “In this preliminary study, we compared two contrasting dairy production systems from northern Victoria. The first farm we looked at is an intensive production system, which utilises grain and concentrated pellets. In contrast, the second farm was a grazing-based system. We measured the milk production and sampled the feed quality. We then applied a data set to see how different qualities of cereal hay impacted greenhouse gas emissions.”

Understanding carbon emissions more important


Murray Dairy’s Yvette Williams highlighted the increasing focus on emissions among local dairy producers.

Yvette Williams Research and Innovation Coordinator
Yvette Williams

“We’re seeing farmers around the region making a lot of changes to their systems to suit their operations into the future. Understanding carbon emissions is becoming more prominent, especially with the industry aiming to reduce greenhouse-gas intensity by 30% by 2030. This study gives us a chance to model greenhouse-gas output and understand its implications, particularly from a diet perspective,” she said.

While the study was a preliminary one, Dr Cheng noted that feed quality is just one of several factors farmers should consider.

“What we know from science is that feeding higher-quality hay or silage is likely to reduce methane emission. However, we also need to consider other factors, such as the quantity of hay being fed. It’s not just about the quality, but also the amount.”

The findings provide valuable insights for dairy farmers looking to optimise their feeding strategies to reduce environmental impact while maintaining productivity.


ABC Goulburn Murray



For a more detailed discussion, tune in to the full interview with Dr Paul Cheng and Yvette Williams on ABC Goulburn Murray Radio’s Rural Report today, Tuesday 11 June, 2024.

You can also find out more about the Greener & Climate Resilient Dairy Production project  on the project page, and in the Vic Hub’s media release section.