Towards an energy-neutral dairy farming sector in 2030

The Sustainable Dairy Chain (Duurzame Zuivelketen) is working on reducing greenhouse gases, generating sustainable energy and reducing the use of energy. The progress of the sector will be independently monitored by Wageningen Economic Research.

In the plan Klimaatverantwoorde zuivelsector in Nederland juni 2018 [Climate-sensible dairy sector in the Netherlands June 2018] it is stated that the LTO, NMV, NAJK and the NZO see possibilities for a reduction of 1.6 Mt CO2-eq in 2030 compared to existing policy by e.g.:

  • 0.8 Mt CO2-eq reduction of methane by means of measures in the areas of animal, feed, manure storage and manuring;
  • 0.6 Mt CO2-eq reduction by energy saving and production of sustainable energy; and
  • 0.2 Mt CO2-eq reduction by means of measures with respect to land use.

Actualisation of this will require cooperation of all parties within the dairy chain, governments, industry, retail and social organisations. The objectives and approach described in the plan are also the objectives of the Sustainable Dairy Chain.

The commitment of the dairy sector is an integral part of and makes a contribution to the targets of the Klimaatakkoord [Climate Agreement] for agriculture and land use: reduction by 3.5 Mt CO2-eq compared to existing policy.


  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the entire dairy chain (dairy farms plus supply plus transport to production locations)
  • Energy-neutral dairy farming
  • Low-energy dairy processing and transport

Objectives 2030

Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the entire dairy chain in 2030 compared to existing policy

  • 0.8 Mt CO2-eq methane (target)
  • 0.2 Mt CO2-eq soil


  • 0.6 Mt CO2-eq energy
  • 1.0 Mt CO2-eq outside the Netherlands (indicative)

This concerns reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the entire dairy chain, which also integrally includes feed, fertiliser, use of energy and generation of energy.

Under preconditions as well as roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders as stated in the plan Climate-sensible dairy sector in the Netherlands (December 2018)

Energy-neutral dairy farming

  • Energy-neutral in 2030

Low-energy dairy processing and transport

  • 3% savings per year


2019 compared to objectives 2020

Objective 2020 Indicator
Baseline measurement 2011
Result 2019
Greenhouse gases
Climate-neutral growth (= 21.20 Mt)
Carbon footprint of sector
(Mt CO2-eq)
21.20 21.70
20% reduction compared to 1990 (= 19.29 Mt)
Energy efficiency
Annually 2% reduction compared to 2005 (= 61.0 m3 natural gas equivalent per 1,000 kg milk)
Primary fuel consumption (m3 natural gas equivalent per 1,000 kg milk)  70.8 52.3
Sustainable energy production  3.7 (2012)  6.3


Supporting indicators
Baseline measurement 2011
Result 2019
Progress compared to
Greenhouse gases
Carbon footprint of product (Mt CO2-eq)


1,232 !
Energy efficiency
Part sustainable (%)
9.1 (2012) 19.7
Total energy consumption (%, index 2005)
112 119
Energy consumption per kg milk (%, index 2005)
101 91
Use of electricity by dairy farms (kWh/1,000 kg milk)
58.8 55.2
Use of diesel by dairy farms (litres/1,000 kg milk)
15.4 13.9
Sustainable energy production
Sustainable energy production (PJ)
0.94 1.66

Sector carbon footprint further decreased
In 2019, the sector carbon footprint decreased for the third consecutive year since the baseline measurement (4.4% compares to 2018). Some reasons for the decrease in 2019 are a decrease of the number of dairy cows and young cattle, the use of concentrates with less protein, the use of more green instead of grey electricity and less purchase of roughage compares to the dry year of 2018. Achievement of the objective of climate-neutral development requires a reduction of the emission in 2020 of 0.5 Mt CO2-eq (-2.3%) compared to 2019 is required. In order to achieve the objective ‘20% reduction compared to 1990’ a decrease of 2.4 Mt CO2-eq (-11%) compared to 2019 is required, but here it should be noted that the comparison between 1990 and recent years is not really correct because of the methodological differences.

The primary fuel consumption in the dairy chain amounted to 52.3 m3 natural gas equivalent per 1,000 kg milk in 2019. The objective for 2020 – 2% reduction per year in 2005-2020, which comes down to 61.0 m3 natural gas equivalents per 1,000 kg milk in 2020 – has already been achieved since 2015.

The generation of sustainable energy as a percentage of the energy consumption increased from 5.6% in 2018 to 6.3% in 2019. The distance to the objective of 16% in 2020 is still substantial. An important note with respect to this result is that energy generated by wind and co-fermentation only includes windmills and/or co-fermentation installations present at the dairy farms that have been registered.

NB Results compared to objectives 2030 are not available yet.

Method of working

Greenhouse gas reduction in the entire dairy chain

Approach in the sector

The dairy sector (LTO, NMV, NAJK and NZO) has drawn up the plan Climate-sensible dairy sector in the Netherlands (December 2018) in the framework of the Climate Agreement. This plan describes the objectives and the approach with respect to the greenhouse gas reduction task. The execution of this plan, together with the chain partners and stakeholders each with their own roles and responsibilities mentioned in this forms an integral part of the objectives and the approach of the Sustainable Dairy Chain.

The entire dairy chain is committed to reducing the greenhouse gases, which also integrally includes feed, fertiliser, energy consumption and generation of energy. Every dairy farmer can make a contribution to the reduction of the greenhouse gases, but will do this in his own way that fits in with his farm and its surroundings. The range of greenhouse gas reducing measures for dairy farmers be further developed in the coming period. With the climate module and the greenhouse gases decision tool dairy farmers gain insight into their footprints and how these can be decreased with measures suitable for the business strategy and in line with other sustainability objectives. The industry will also take its responsibilities by reducing the use of fossil fuels.

The dairy sector sees opportunities for reducing the emission of greenhouse gases in 2030 by e.g.:

  • Measures in the areas of animals, feed, manure storage and manuring: 0.8 Mt CO2-eq for methane
  • Here we can think of extension of longevity, adjustment of the composition of feed, additives and better use of roughage, methane oxidation, outside storage and manure mono-fermentation.
  • Measures concerning crops and soil: 0.2 Mt CO2-eq Energy saving and production of sustainable energy: 0.6 Mt CO2-eq at the dairy farm.
  • Here we can think of less ripping up of grass, improvement of crop rotation, catch crop through sowing after harvesting or through under-sowing, replacement of a part of the grass by clover in order to reduce the use of fertiliser, pre-coolers, frequency controllers and lighting, sun PV and windmills.
  • Decreased dependence on the import of protein-rich concentrates (soy and palm kernels) as a result of the implementation of the recommendations of the Land-relatedness Commission will lead to additional reduction of greenhouse gases abroad. This climate benefit abroad is estimated to be about 1 Mt CO2 in 2030.

Energy-neutral dairy farming sector in 2030

Approach in the sector

  • Generating energy (without affecting the food production) through the use of solar panels on the shed roofs, small-scale windmills and manure mono-fermentation.
  • Decreased used of fossil gas.
  • Use and generation of energy clarified in the climate module.
  • For a future-proof business model of a dairy farmer it is crucial that energy saving and generation of sustainable energy are included in the climate ambition for which the dairy sector takes its responsibility.
  • Various dairy companies stimulate and facilitate the generation of energy at the dairy farm.

Low-energy dairy processing and transport

Approach in the sector

  • The members of the NZO have defined a work programme with respect to environment and energy for the period 2015-2020, including water, air, soil, waste and energy. The arrangements under the MJA-3 (multi-year energy efficiency agreement) are part of this programme. The implementation of the work programme will be monitored independently.
  • In the energy efficiency plans (EEPs) the sector has promised to take measures that will lead to annual savings of 3,493.4 in 2020 for the current participants. After four years, the annual effect of the executed, planned and supplementary measures will be 3,901.3 TJ. With this 111.7% of the planned sector objective will have been achieved.
  • The total actual use of energy by the dairy sector amounted to 20,178.6 TJ in 2020. This is about 0.1% lower than in 2019.
  • All 42 companies in the dairy industry with energy management responsibilities have implemented a full-fledged energy management system.

Energy saving in the process

Process-related measures (PE) in 2020 resulted in saving 395.6 TJ. The most important process measures are:

  • Modernise the plant
  • Process new products with mechanical vapour recompression
  • Improve the steam supply

Energy saving in the chain

Chain measures (KE) resulted in a total saving of 598.7 TJ in 2020. The most important chain measures are:

  • Decrease of food waste because of longer shelf lives
  • Optimisation of logistic routing
  • Energy production from waste

Use of sustainable energy

The total use of sustainable energy (DE) in the sector amounted to 6,989.1 TJ in 2020. The most important sustainable energy measures are:

  • Procurement of sustainable electricity: This covers 83.3% of the total electricity consumption in the sector
  • Use of pyrolysis oil to produce steam


Effects of measures
2020 compared to 2019
2020 compared to 2005 
Process efficiency improvement
1.9% 22.7%
Process efficiency improvement [TJ]
395.6 5,085.2
Saving in the chain [TJ]
138.2 590.7
Sustainable energy [TJ]
-136.0  7,040.6

Source: RVO MJA Sector report 2020 Dairy industry