Arizona Dairy farmer Wes Kerr is often quoted explaining, “In 1944, there were roughly 26 million dairy cows in the United States. Today there are only 9 million cows. Today’s 9 million dairy cows give more milk than the 26 million dairy cows did in 1944 thanks to genetics, improved feed, and other improved management and technology practices. As a result, from 1944 to 2021, dairy farms have had a 66% drop in their carbon footprint due to improved genetics and feed, as fewer cows are able to produce more milk.”

According to the dairy industry, between 2007 and 2017 dairy farmers committed to significantly lowering their carbon footprint and have done so by almost 20%, despite their high achievements in the previous decades. In fact, dairy only contributes 2% to greenhouse gas emissions but is working hard to get to net zero. 

The Efforts Making the Difference

First, dairy farmers are big recyclers, and cows’ diet includes much of the food waste we humans can’t eat including almond hulls, citrus pulp, fruit, and vegetable scraps.

Second, dairy farmers also recycle their water, sometimes as much as five to six times, and use the last remains of it to water their forage crops, grown to also feed their cattle.

And as always, dairy farmers take extra good care of their animals. Happy cows produce more milk, and Arizona cows produce more milk per cow than most of the other states in the nation. 

Finally, to keep cows cool in the summer and therefore happy and productive, Arizona dairies are specially designed with barns called Saudi Barns. 

These barns are equipped with fans and misters. The cooling systems work so well that they can drop the temperature as much as 30 degrees in the shade even during the hottest part of an Arizona summer.

Quoting from the Arizona Beef blog,” Today dairy cattle are far more productive, and healthier and produce higher quality milk than ever before in history. People often speak of “the good old days,” but when I look at the data it becomes apparent to me that perhaps the “the good old days” are today.” Said Dairy Farmer Kerr. I sometimes wonder what my great-grandfather would say if he could see the practices we use today. I suspect that he would find them incredible.

“I believe that our job as modern agriculturalists is to share our unique stories with consumers. We, food producers, are not faceless greedy people who cut corners trying to make a quick buck. We, food producers, are made up of families who work hard every day through the good times and the difficult times, to bring quality products to feed families.”

Finally, to highlight carbon footprint reductions: “The carbon footprint of a glass of milk has dropped by two-thirds since 1944. We’re using less land, less water, fewer cows, and producing more milk. It’s a fantastic story of embracing science and technology in our farming practices and raising our animals that have allowed us to achieve those efficiencies in our practices,” said Kerr.

Sources: Arizona Milk Producers, Dairy Management, Inc., United Dairymen of Arizona and our Dairy Farmers.