A new approach to feeding dairy cattle will be piloted in Cornwall and Finistère in France, in a bid to reduce industry greenhouse gas emissions and improve productivity.

The two-year cross-Channel project, called Agriculture Bas Carbone for Dairy (ABCD), will support 80 farmers across Brittany and Cornwall in transitioning to greener farming.

Cornwall and Finistère both have large dairy sectors.

Through measuring existing emissions and piloting new approaches for feeding dairy cattle, the ABCD project expects to reduce carbon footprint at pilot farms by 10 per cent and contribute to climate goals to become carbon neutral by 2030.

The micro-project which has received €400,000 from the European Regional Development Fund’s, Interreg France (Channel) England programme, draws on expertise from Cornwall Council and its long-standing partner, Finistère Council, in Brittany, France, as well as the Brittany Chamber of Agriculture.

The project will be divided in two phases: two pilot farms, one in France and one in Cornwall, will measure existing emissions and test new diets on several cattle during winter, and the results will be used for the second phase which consists of knowledge transfer and training farmers in the carbon reductions that can be achieved by adopting these new methods.

In Cornwall, two dairy processors are already involved, Saputo Dairy and Trewithen Dairy, and they will contribute to the farmers’ support by ensuring a link with their network of Cornish farms, but any dairy farmer in Cornwall will be able to get involved.

Cornwall Council is also seizing this project as another opportunity to implement new low-carbon practices.

It is planned that the methane captured in the slurry pits of its farm estate will be used to fuel the council’s fleet of vehicles.

The project’s wider ambitions are to use the farming research to support the transition towards greener agriculture and making it accessible to all farmers who are willing to develop this approach.

It will also enable consumers to access low-carbon dairy products at an affordable price, as the project aims to disseminate its results across the whole Channel area and contribute to a global change in dairy farming practices.

Climate change is a top priority for both Cornwall and Finistere Council, who are working together on a cross-border low carbon action plan as part of wider co-operation between the two authorities that will focus not only on agriculture, but also on a variety of topics where a common response is relevant.

Stephen Rushworth, Cornwall Council’s cabinet portfolio holder for the economy, said: “By assisting farmers estimate and reduce their carbon emissions, the ABCD project will help dairy farmers consider changes in their cattle feeding regime that will reduce their carbon footprint and improve their productivity.”

Martyn Alvey, portfolio holder for Environment and Climate Change, said: “Projects like this are why Cornwall is recognised as such a forward thinking and innovative region.

“With agriculture accounting for 21 per cent of Cornwall’s carbon emissions and dairy farming an important part of our economy, projects like this that look at dairy farming from a ‘it’s not the cow, it’s the how’ angle, will help us to find new approaches to reduce emissions and at the same time advance new technologies and industry.”