The French dairy sector engaged in
fighting global warming

My Positive Impact - Lauréat
A farmer and a cow in a grassland

What is the "Low carbon dairy farm" ?

The "Low carbon dairy farm" is an initiative supported and developed by the French Dairy Interbranch Organization (CNIEL). It aims to promote farming practices and action levers to reduce French dairy farm greenhouse gas emissions by 20% per liter of milk by 2025.

Life Carbon Dairy, forerunner of the climate solution "Low Carbon Dairy Farm"

It is under the Carbon Dairy Life program, funded by the European Union and the French fund CASDAR (farming and rural development) that the carbon diagnosis required to achieve the "Low Carbon Dairy Farm" has been developed.

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To date, 3900 breeders from 6 major dairy producing regions are already engaged into an action program called "Life Carbon Dairy". The “Low carbon dairy farm” initiative aims to involve 60 000 French dairy farms, which could enable a saving of around two million tons of CO2 in 10 years !

    The "Low carbon dairy farm" is all about :
  • Carrying out an audit of greenhouse gases emissions from milk production in each farm
  • Setting up an action plan for each individual farm and its environment (i.e strengthening cows feed autonomy by maximising fodder production on the farm, growing more clover and alfalfa, reducing the use of chemical fertilizer through the use of slurry and manure from livestock, planting hedges, etc.)

In actual fact, the aim is to develop a "climate roadmap" of French milk production for the next 10 years.

Two cows in a meadow

What is an environmental audit of a dairy farm ?

An environmental audit is a personal visit to the dairy farmer by a farm adviser, using the CAP'2ER tool (an evaluation and decision support tool). It is used to estimate the dairy farm's greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, contribution to biodiversity, but also its nourishing capacity (number of people nourished by the farm's production).

Validated technical and scientific solutions

On 9th and 10th June 2015, the French dairy interbranch organization (CNIEL), the livestock and meat interbranch organization (INTERBEV), the National Livestock Confederation (CNE) and The French Livestock Institute (IDELE), presented their actions to reduce greenhouse gases emissions (GHG)...

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This project is led by the French dairy interbranch organization, CNIEL, which rallies dairy farmers, dairy companies and farm advisors around the creation of a national momentum around the "Low carbon dairy farm" initiative.

The French Livestock Institute (IDELE) ensures the technical coordination of the carbon plan and proposes, in partnership with development actors, technical support and improvement of environmental performances tools such as CAP'2ER (environmental assessment and decision support tool to raise awareness and engage in a cattle improvement program). These tools enable farmers to know the carbon footprint of milk produced on their farm and to see where they stand compared to references. It also gives them practical cases and technical references, and an action plan, adapted to their environment, to reduce their emissions.

Deux vaches qui broutent de l'herbe

Dairy farming and greenhouse gas : emission, compensation ?

According to FAO, milk production represents 2.9% of global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. These farms compensate for 30% of their emissions through carbon storage under grassland, hedges and boscs.
Not including carbon storage
1 to 1.5 kg C02 equivalent
per liter of milk
Including carbon storage
0.7 to 1.2 kg CO2 equivalent
per liter of milk

French dairy farms, closely linked to the soil, have a good and comprehensive ecological balance sheet

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    A dairy farm emits three types of greenhouse gases: methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • Methane, naturally generated from rumination, represents 50% of these greenhouse gases. It is the result of forage cellulose digestion, which is specific to ruminants. It also originates, to a lesser extent, from manure storage.
  • Nitrous oxide, related to effluent storage and application of mineral and organic fertilizers.
  • CO2, as a result of fuel and electricity consumption used on farms, buying agricultural inputs (fertilizers, feed, etc.), their production and transport to the farm.

If, like all human activities, farming has a responsibility in terms of greenhouse gas emission, it also has a distinct characteristic in that it compensates for part of its emissions. Indeed, dairy farm grassland, hedges and boscs of store CO2 : this storage represents an average of 30% of greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farming.

In 2013, the French dairy sector set the target to further reduce its greenhouse gas emissions per litre of milk by 20% in 10 years.

A farmer and his herd of cows

Learn more about the French dairy sector

An average French dairy farm in figures :

55 dairy cows

345 000 liters of milk produced / year

92 hectares including 33ha of grassland

54% organized as joint structures (GAEC/EARL)

Sources : RICA / France Agri Mer / Annual Dairy Survey

67 400 dairy farms supplying
cow's milk


24.6 billion liters of cow’s milk collected

Sources : Annual Dairy Survey / Monthly Dairy Survey

Each year, a French consumer buys :

A French consumer buys each year 3.1kg of butter, 38kg of milk, 12.5kg of cheese, 3.7kg of cream, 28kg of fresh dairy products

Source : CNIEL through KantarWorldPanel (2013)

Carte de la France

99% of milk processed on French territory comes from France

Source : CNIEL through Eurostat

250 000 jobs spread throughout the country

250 000 men and women working for the French dairy sector

Sources : CNIEL through ESANE / RICA / Annual Dairy Survey

2.1% of cows' milk collected is organicLogo Agriculture Biologique

50 French dairy PDOs (Protected Designation of Origin)

50 French dairy PDOs

Sources : Annual Dairy Survey / Agreste / CNAOL

In France, Milk is used for

Using of milk in France

Source : CNIEL through FranceAgriMer (2013)

Milk produced throughout the territory

Carte de la France

A partnership program

CNIEL is the French Dairy Interbranch Organization. It facilitates relations between milk producers and processors. CNIEL is the place where professionals come together to build common references, particularly around dairy economics and milk quality. It informs about and promotes the strengths of the French dairy sector.

It develops scientific expertise (literature reviews, research programs, etc.) that reinforces competitiveness of all those involved in the dairy sector and protect the interests of milk and dairy products to develop French demand as well as exports.

Working in partnership with research and development actors, the French livestock institute (IDELE) conducts research on herbivores. Working on topics such as production, environment, competitiveness, product quality or economy, IDELE covers social areas and one of its main activities is knowledge transmission.

...And in key figures : 30 themes studied - 500 publications and about 15 technical days per year – a catalogue of 120 training sessions.

The "Low carbon dairy farm" initiative is a winner of the "My Positive Impact" contest, organized by the Fondation Nicolas Hulot

Voting for those who have climate solutions to propose! Such is the intent of the contest conducted, within the framework of the COP 21, by the Fondation Nicolas Hulot. It rewards projects considered by citizens as most effective against the effects of climate change.

Among 350 sustainability projects, the "Low carbon dairy farm" initiative submitted by the French Dairy Interbranch Organization (CNIEL) was included in a list of solutions selected by the Foundation, then voted upon by citizens, and elected as one of the five rewarded projects (fourth place).