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 co-op and processor outreach mediums.

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.

Aerial view of dairy farm

2022 - 2023 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.

Dairy farm

2023 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 have a positive impact in promoting beneficial partnerships between dairy farmers, state agencies, researchers, and other key stakeholders throughout the state. To support California Dairy Quality Assurance Program (CDQAP) communications.

Aerial view of dairy farm

2023 Benchmarking and Describing California Dairy Sustainability Metrics

OBJECTIVE: To establish benchmarking data for energy and water use for the development of future sustainability metrics. To evaluate nutrient management mitigation options to improve nitrogen use on-farm or convert manure nitrogen to forms for more economical transport. Objective one will provide benchmark information for energy and water use. The outcome of this objective will provide essential information for producers (and their supply chain buyers) to identify realistic opportunities for improvement. Objective two will identify the potential for limited infrastructure manure mitigation options (pipelines, scrape, compost) to aid dairies’ increased access to land for on-site manure use while reducing supplemental commercial fertilizer usage or densification of manure for export.

Aerial view of dairy farm

2023 Characterizing and Quantifying a Flaxseed Product in Reducing Methane Emissions

OBJECTIVE:To investigate the potential of a flaxseed-based product to reduce methane emissions and result in higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in milk. Milk production, milk quality (including fatty acid profile), feed intake and methane emissions will be measured.

Aerial view of dairy farm

2022 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.


2023 California Dairy Quality Assurance Program (CDQAP)

OBJECTIVES: To provide timely, accurate and science-based educational information on environmental stewardship, food safety, farm security and animal care. To continue to offer Third-Party Certification in Environmental Stewardship. To provide science-based information and alerts for animal care emergencies such as heat waves, mortality and milk disposal, flooding, fire/blackouts, human and animal disease epidemics with clear, and feasible guidance created in concert with agencies managing emergency response.