In Ireland, we love rainy days – and there are lots of them. Combined with our moderate climate, our abundant rainfall creates vibrantly green grasslands where our herds are free to graze for more than 300 days a year. The result is a grass-based dairy production system that ranks as the most carbon-efficient internationally. It’s an environment that’s naturally suited to sustainable farming – something that Glanbia Ingredients Ireland (GII) is committed to protecting.
A winning position
Ireland has its location on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean to thank for its plentiful precipitation and some of the world’s best grass-growing conditions, with transatlantic Gulf Stream winds ensuring a lack of temperature extremes. This creates the stunning fields that dominate our landscapes:
- Of the two thirds of Ireland’s land that is used for agriculture, 80% comprises pasturelands
- Our yearly grass growth rate exceeds the European average by more than a third
Because of our weather, we don’t need to rely on mechanical irrigation. But that doesn’t mean we take water for granted – in recent years, we’ve reduced our fresh water usage by 35–40% within our manufacturing plants at GII, and as a nation our water footprint and water stress index compare favourably to those of other countries. We also have the cleanest Air Pollution Index in Europe – and at GII, we’ve improved energy efficiency and carbon emissions by 50% over the past 10 years, while aiming for a further 10% improvement by 2020.
We take these ambitions very seriously as a founding member of Origin Green – the world’s only national sustainability programme to unite the government, private sector and food producers, led by Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board. Through our own Open Source® Sustainability and Quality Assurance Code, we have committed to delivering a truly sustainable milk supply via our 4,800 farms by 2020.
Millennia of farming heritage
Our cows love the weather here just as much as the farmers do. It means they get to feed on the finest grass, with plenty of room to roam in small herds – the antithesis of intensive indoor dairy farming. This makes for healthy cows who birth the healthiest calves in spring, right on time for the peak grass-growing season.
And the quality of our herds’ diets means they produce less methane, too. This is by far the biggest contributor to dairy farms’ carbon emissions, so it’s important to minimise it in any way possible.
Of course, our expertise in keeping our cows healthy and happy is based on thousands of years of rich farming heritage. Ireland’s wealth of animal welfare and animal husbandry knowledge is passed down from one generation to the next, with a mix of highly skilled, young, entrepreneurial farmers and experienced veterans working on GII’s 4,800 farms.
As part of our unique Open Source Programme, those farmers are assisted by a dedicated team of advisors who provide one-to-one support and insight in the areas of milk quality, sustainable farming and animal welfare. And through Open Source, we are ensuring that every one of our farmer suppliers are independently audited under an internationally accredited certification process.
It’s schemes such as these that ensure we make the most of the land and agricultural history that nature has gifted to us. You can find out more about our work to promote sound farming practices on our farms, and our internationally leading approach to sustainability in our factories and across our supply chain by visiting our sustainability section.