Discover the Low carbon dairy farm initiative

The Low carbon dairy farm is an initiative supported and developed by the French Dairy Interbranch Organization (Cniel). This collective approach of the dairy sector aims to promote farming practices and action levers to reduce by 20% milk carbon footprint by 2025.

The Low carbon dairy farm, an ambitious and pragmatic initiative

The Low carbon dairy farm initiative was launched by the dairy sector to support French dairy farmers wishing to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. It is based on an individualized audit. Each farmer can then choose action levers adapted to his farm and his objectives. This approach is part of the French dairy sector’s climate change commitment. It brings together milk producers, dairy processors, cooperatives, and farm advisors.

In a few words, the Low carbon dairy farm initiative consists of :

  • Carrying out a technical and economic environmental audit in each farm
  • Identifying potential action levers to improve carbon footprint, technical and economic performances
  • Building an action plan jointly with the dairy farmer, specific to his farm, economic and social context
  • Communicating positively on the French dairy sector.

To date, more than 9 500 dairy farmers have chosen to get involved in the low carbon dairy farm. But the dairy actors wish to go far beyond involving every French dairy farm that is to say 60 000 farms. If so, around 2 million tons of CO2 could be avoided in 10 years !


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Thierry Bertot, a farmer involved in the Low carbon dairy farm initiative

The Low carbon dairy farm in 4 milestones

Since 2013, the Low carbon dairy farm initiative has grown alongside dairy farmers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The French Livestock Institute (Idele) carries out the Life Carbon Dairy project working in partnership with Cniel, the French Milk Recording Umbrella Organisation (FCEL) and the Chambers of agriculture. This project aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% in 3 900 dairy farms in 6 dairy producing regions. Supported by the European Union and CASDAR, this program enabled the development of the environmental audit tool “CAP'2ER®” to educate and train more than 100 advisors and farmers on greenhouse gas emissions, to realize a carbon footprint mapping and identify practices to reduce on-farm emissions. CAP'2ER® will be used later as the auditing tool for the low carbon dairy farm initiative
Following the success of this regional experimentation, Cniel and its partners decided to expand this approach to the entire territory: this is the beginning of the Low Carbon Dairy Farm initiative
That same year, the Low carbon dairy farm initiative was rewarded as a solution for climate of the "My Positive Impact" contest organized by the Fondation Nicolas Hulot.
To promote the deployment of the Low carbon dairy farm initative, Cniel funded more than 500 audits throughout France.
Today, Cniel and its partners pursue with the promotion of the system by working hand in hand with all dairy actors.
If 60 000 French dairy farms get involved in the Low-Carbon Dairy Farm approach, around 2 million tons of CO2 could be avoided in 10 years.

What is a dairy farm’s environmental audit ?

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

As first step to raise awareness on a dairy farm’s environmental impact, each farmer can self-estimate his carbon footprint by using the self-assessment tool, SelfCO2®.

What are the benefits for dairy farmers ?

Improving environmental performances is not only good for the environment. It is also guaranties farm’s sustainability. Indeed, environmental and technical-economic performances are strongly correlated. Reducing inputs, valorizing pastures, optimizing milk production ... all are ecological gestures with potential economic gains for the dairy farmer. A "win-win" strategy!

In low carbon dairy farms, regardless of the grassland system, improved environmental efficiency means better economic efficiency. Thus, the10% farms with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions have shown an average gross margin of 10 € higher per 1 000L of milk produced. 

Participating in the Low-carbon dairy farm initiative also highlights the positive contributions of dairy farming. Today, the average low carbon dairy farm is:

People fed
100 ha
Of biodiversity maintained
19 393 kg
Of carbon stored in soils