As we begin this week with Earth Day, much of the news highlights conservation and planet-friendly efforts being made within the dairy industry.

Lee karen
Managing Editor / Progressive Dairy

Dairy conservation efforts highlighted

The FARM Program released findings from its conservation practice questionnaire highlighting the leading stewardship of dairy farmers.

FARM Environmental Stewardship (ES) launched the voluntary questionnaire in August 2022 after significant stakeholder feedback and on-farm piloting. More than 450 of them have been completed on dairy farms across 20 states since its launch, with respondents ranging in milking herd size from 17 cows to more than 15,000.

As of March 2024, questionnaires indicate that:

  • 79% of participating dairy farmers reuse or recycle water on their farm: 76% reuse plate cooler water to flush the barn, as drinking water, or for other uses; 14% capture rainwater for cleaning or other use; and 29% reuse water for irrigation;
  • 90% of participating farms report implementing field conservation practices;
  • 68% of participating farmers use recycled manure, recycled sand or byproducts as bedding for their cows; and
  • More than 97% of participating dairy farmers use energy saving technologies and practices.

In addition, the FARM Program launched a searchable database of technical and financial resources. Farmers and their technical advisers may use the new resource to identify support suitable to the farm’s conservation goals.


The database contains information from government, nonprofit, extension, state planning tools and many other relevant financial or technical assistance providers and resources. Financial resources include grants, cost-share, loan programs and other incentives available. The database’s first areas of focus are on resources for cover cropping, conservation tillage, energy efficiency, nutrient management and pollinator habitat.

Munch: Agriculture makes sustainability strides

In analyzing the EPA’s latest emissions inventory, American Farm Bureau Federation economist Daniel Munch reports U.S. agriculture represents just under 10% of total U.S. emissions when compared to other economic sectors.

From 2021 to 2022, the overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions increased by 1.3%. However, agricultural emissions dropped 1.8%, the largest decrease of any economic sector and the lowest U.S. agricultural greenhouse gas emissions since 2012.

Munch attributed the aggregate nationwide emissions increase in 2022 to the continued return of economic activity after the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas, agricultural production remained vital throughout the COVID-19 disruptions and lockdowns.

The reduction of agricultural emissions is aided by voluntary, market- and incentive-based conservation practices that help farmers and ranchers access finances for the research and technology needed to continue to care for our natural resources.

Cornell unveils animal respiration chambers

New climate-controlled animal respiration stalls, or chambers, at Cornell University will allow researchers to definitively measure, verify and monitor methane and other gas emissions from cows. These are the only chambers currently operating in the U.S. and will support a slate of investigations aimed at improving the sustainability and productivity of farms around the world.

The chambers are similar to large barn stalls that house cows but are fully contained as a single unit with climate control to support the health and welfare of the animal.

“The respiration chambers are considered to be the gold standard to monitor methane emissions from cows,” said Joseph McFadden, associate professor of dairy cattle biology at Cornell University. “There are a lot of untested methane mitigation and monitoring technologies out there. But the only way you can provide absolute quantification of gas emissions is by using a respiration chamber system.”

The animal respiration chambers are climate-controlled and monitor oxygen consumption and methane, CO2 and hydrogen emissions in real time, taking measurements every two to 10 minutes.

The chambers will also be used to validate measurements from wearable sensors that are currently under development and to improve Cornell’s nutritional modeling software, called the Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System (CNCPS). The model is used to formulate diets for approximately 70% of lactating cows in North America and has been adopted in over 40 countries.

Foremost Farms partners with Wisconsin DNR for Adopt-A-Wildlife Habitat

The employees of Foremost Farms, a dairy cooperative representing hundreds of Midwest dairy farmer members located across seven Midwest states, dedicated a day to planting native trees and habitat restoration along the Pine River Fishery Area near Richland Center, Wisconsin.

“It makes sense to contribute to the Richland Center area with our processing plant and high density of cooperative member farms,” said Greg Schlafer, president and CEO of Foremost Farms.

This project is a collaborative partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) Adopt-A-Wildlife Habitat program. The three-year restoration plan includes removing trees throughout the property to prevent invasive species, enable the growth of native grasses and prepare the ecosystem to plant and maintain native trees. For its commitment to the partnership, Foremost Farms will contribute at least 100 people-hours of watershed restoration work annually.

USDA updates HPAI guidance, biosecurity resource now available in Spanish

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) released updated guidance for dairy farms, veterinarians and animal health officials for preventing and managing highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 in dairy cattle.

In addition, a Spanish-language version of biosecurity recommendations for dairy farms was released by the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), in partnership with the FARM Program and American Association of Bovine Practitioners.

The Milk Cup Fortnite series promotes milk’s nutritional benefits

Gonna Need Milk, a campaign by MilkPEP, is launching The Milk Cup, a pioneering Fortnite tournament series aimed at empowering women in esports.

The initiative addresses the significant gender gap in professional gaming by giving women gamers a platform and the opportunity to play for the largest women’s esports prize pool in North America.

“Our commitment goes beyond words; we actively listen to the gaming community and value their ideas and feedback,” says MilkPEP CEO Yin Woon Rani. “Gonna Need Milk has a long legacy of supporting and fueling women athletes. We hope to inspire and motivate young girls and women globally and create a gaming industry that supports and rewards talent.”

The Milk Cup, developed with collaboration from female gamers, features three majors culminating with an in-person grand finals LAN event with a groundbreaking $250,000 payout.

This effort not only provides a platform for women gamers but also emphasizes the nutritional benefits of milk for optimal gaming performance.

Gamers can now sign up for The Milk Cup pre-qualifiers. Supporters are encouraged to join the fun and cheer on their favorite gamers with majors and finals broadcasting across eRena’s Twitch Channel and follow along at @gonnaneedmilk across social media.

Hiland Dairy president to be inducted into hall of fame

Hiland Dairy announced that its president, Rick Beaman, will be inducted into the prestigious Dairy Products Institute of Texas Hall of Fame. This honor will be presented to Beaman during the annual convention, April 26-28, in Lubbock, Texas.

Beaman’s father, Ken Beaman, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018. This recognition underlines the Beaman family’s significant contributions to the dairy sector and their commitment to quality, innovation and community engagement in the state of Texas and the entire industry.