Environmental Management

Cows Grazing

The California Dairy Research Foundation (CDRF) has funded California-based initiatives in the sustainability area since 1988.  They are key contributors to the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program (CDQAP) and the Dairy Cares communications program. These programs direct their efforts towards improving the environmental stewardship and animal care practices of California dairy farmers through education, communication, and accreditation programs. CDRF’s support has assisted the dairy industry in providing science-based communications in the areas of greater sustainability and environmental management, and enables the industry to promote its commitment to sustainability to industry partners and communities at large.

CDRF invests in programs that take a proactive approach to support the California dairy industry to ensure continues to  achieve an economically viable, socially beneficial, world-class position in environmental sustainability, animal health and welfare.

From farm to fork, the California dairy industry is recognized as a vital source of essential nutrients and needs to be recognized by consumers as proactively managing its relationship with the environment.

Although the California dairy community has already accomplished great strides in environmental stewardship, current and future regulations are wide-reaching, impacting all industries and stakeholders. The regulatory requirements for dairy farms surrounding water quality, water quantity, and air quality, specifically, will continue to impact long-term industry viability. CDRF facilitates and funds effective research, development, and education projects to assist dairy farmers in continued sound environmental management practice improvement. Priority is placed on projects which directly support dairy producers in complying with current and future environmental regulations while maintaining economic viability. CDRF’s research is informing and validating the efforts of California dairy producers and is distributed via direct outreach, CMAB, CDQAP, Dairy Cares and others, such as Western United Dairies (see their sustainability outreach here).

CDRF’s priority research areas of interest for Environmental Management are:

  • Identifying water recharge opportunities on dairies
  • Improving water use efficiency of forage crops
  • Irrigation automation for water and labor savings
  • Achieving water quality compliance on farm
  • Advanced technologies for manure treatment and/or standardization
  • Markets and technologies for exporting manure off farm
  • Methane reduction opportunities and incentives
  • Reducing enteric emissions
  • Quantifying the benefits of dairy digesters and alternative manure management practices
  • Improving soil health and biodiversity
  • Projects that address multiple environmental targets (e.g., water use, air quality, soil health, nutrient management)

See below for current project details.

People at a dairy

California Dairy Quality Assurance Program

OBJECTIVE: To create and manage producer-friendly, concise outreach related to new CDFA policies regarding livestock medications and business continuity. Deliver timely, science-based information and alerts for animal care emergencies with clear, feasible guidance, created in concert with agencies in charge of managing emergency response. Leverage federal and local law enforcement resources, allowing producers to better protect themselves and employees. Offer Environmental Certifications and educational classes.

Dairy farm

Dairy Cares

OBJECTIVE: To increase awareness and understanding of how California dairy farmers continue to improve environmental performance and are world leaders in the development of sustainable farming practices. To craft impactful key messages, communicating in-person with target audiences, using online and print media to regularly engage audiences with key messages, and providing continued support to California Dairy Quality Assurance Program (CDQAP).

dairy manure and almond wood compost dispersal

Production of Dairy Manure and Almond Wood Compost for Healthy Soils

OBJECTIVE: To develop innovative methods for the production of pelletized compost from manure solids that can slowly release nutrients to plants and reduce nutrient leaching and contamination of soil and ground water; and providing new scientific knowledge on the co-composting of manure solids and woody biomass and the pelletization of the mixtures of both materials.

Dairy Cows

Automation of Surface Irrigation Systems in Dairy Production Systems in the Central Valley

OBJECTIVE: To determine the time of irrigation to reduce surface runoff and increase irrigation efficiency by redesigning the surface irrigation system for maximum efficiency based on local constraints such as available flow rate, field length, slope, and other field variables. This work will be conducted on major forage production systems in the Central Valley (corn silage and corn-wheat silage double crop) on two commercial fields with a demonstration site for automated surface irrigation at UC Kearny Agricultural Research and Extension Center (KARE) in Parlier.

Soil sample

Growing Safflower for Silage to Enhance Water and Nutrient Management on California Dairy Farms (Part 2)

OBJECTIVE: To assess the potential of safflower as an alternative winter forage crop that also helps improve water and nitrogen management on California dairy farms. Crop development, nutrient uptake and yield will be monitored; the crop will be analyzed for feed quality as it develops. To create a dairy ration feeding model that adds safflower silage and includes on-farm crop water use requirements. To optimize available water use on representative CA dairy farms using this model under increasing restrictions due to SGMA. To extend results to the dairy community through outreach and publications.

Growing and feeding field of sugarbeets

Growing and Feeding Sugarbeets on Dairy Farms in California (Part 3)

OBJECTIVE: To measure yields, analyze feed quality, and costs, of producing sugarbeets as a winter crop on dairy farms in the San Joaquin Valley (SJV); Estimate water use and nutrient budgets for beet silage crops; Evaluate use of beet silage as a dairy feed in a formal feeding study, comparing different levels of beet silage with other total mixed rations without beets; Optimize farm water use though use of winter crops and create a feeding model that optimizes on-farm water use; Extend results to the dairy community through outreach and publications.

Aerial view of dairy farm

Byproduct Trends and Opportunities for the California Dairy Industry

OBJECTIVE: Analyze byproduct feeding trends and strategies to determine where more outreach, information, or research is warranted to increase and better inform byproduct usage on dairies. Conduct case studies of dairies with high byproduct inclusion rates to demonstrate the dairy industry’s critical role in environmental stewardship for California. Strengthen the California dairy industry’s sustainability story. Highlight potential for increased inclusion rates of byproducts throughout the state.

Aerial view of dairy farm

Characterizing and Quantifying Grape Marc in Reducing Enteric Emissions

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the potential of grape marc to reduce methane emissions and improve modulation of the gut microbiota with potential benefits for human health.

Aerial view of dairy farm

Optimum Dairy Methane Reduction Pathways

OBJECTIVE: To document the progress to date for voluntary, incentive-based approaches to dairy methane reduction, with a focus on California. Review and analyze alternative pathways to reduce methane and reach the state’s 40% reduction target based on feasibility and cost-effectiveness. Explore implications of increased regulation. Examine and document environmental co-benefits/impacts of various methane reduction options. Identify cost-effective, recommended pathways for methane reduction for the California dairy industry.

Aerial view of dairy farm

Production of Pathogen-Free Products from Dairy Manure Solids

OBJECTIVE: To characterize different manure solid streams on selected dairy farms. Create and characterize pelletized or granulated products from manure solids. Investigate the application of infrared heating technology for destroying the pathogens in manure products. Conduct an economic analysis of the pelletized and/or granulized products and develop recommendations for creating biofertilizer products from different types of manure solids. Disseminate project results to interested parties.