Dairy Sector Climate Change Group minutes: 26 January 2021

Minutes of the first meeting of the Dairy Sector Climate Change Group on 26 January 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Jackie McCreery (Chair)
  • Thomas Cameron
  • David Campbell
  • Rory Christie
  • Robert Dodds 
  • Paul Flanagan, AHDB
  • Paul Grant, Dairy Growth Board
  • Bruce Mackie
  • John Newbold, SRUC
  • Tracey Roan
  • Dave Roberts, SRUC
  • Sarah Simpson
  • Johnnie Sloan
  • Grant Walker 
  • Erlend Wood

Scottish Government officials:

  • Gregor Caldwell
  • John Kerr
  • Richard Haw
  • Stefan Hoyte

Secretariat – SG officials:

  • Alistair Prior
  • Elizabeth Bauld
  • Derek Wilson


  • Bryce Cunningham 

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

Jackie McCreery opened the meeting, welcoming the group members and guest speakers. 

Note of last meeting and actions update

The Note of the previous meeting was accepted by the group as an official record. Actions were reviewed, noting the following - firstly the redraft of the remit and the terms of reference had been circulated better reflect the groups objectives. Paul Grant was thanked for circulating the draft DGB strategy document which had been sent round the group. Jackie then asked Stefan Hoyte from SG RESAS to provide an update on the series of actions against RESAS including the dairy sector climate change group research proposal which had previously been issued to the group.

Stefan Hoyte set out the research proposal, mentioning that the time pressures facing the group have been acknowledged by RESAS. Stefan noted that he has been liaising with Steven Thomson from SRUC, who will support the group. It was requested that Theme 1 of the proposal should include with regards information from CTS, considering the measures coming from AgreCalc and how they may be captured by the national inventory, and also understanding the BPS payments in relation to the dairy sector. 
Stefan agreed with the group that biodiversity was relevant and would be included in the research proposal and expanded on, using the DEFRA research brief on the best available techniques for reducing GHG from dairy and intensive beef sectors in England. The chair directed the group to the farming for 1.5 degrees literature review, as they are running in a similar direction as the farmer lead groups.  


  • Chair or secretariat to invite a member of farming for 1.5 degrees to next meeting or get an update from them on the work they are doing
  • RESAS to update the Research Proposal and report back ASAP 

Revised remit for noting

The Chair noted that the revised Terms of Reference for the group had been set out to the group in advance of the meeting and noted in particular that the dairy group should focus on the last two bullet points set out in the remit (supply chain and market incentives) and to avoid duplication of work which may already have been carried out by the other farmer lead groups. 


  • Secretariat to publish terms of reference online

Scene setting

Guest speakers from SRUC and AHDB were introduced and invited to set the scene and context to assist the group in exploring the incentives, drivers and consumer trends in the sector, and to look at what work has already been done and what needs further development.

Dave Roberts from SRUC delivered a presentation summarising his previous discussions with John Newbold and the chair of the group. Dave highlighted the requirement to focus on year on year on-farm improvement, rather than focusing on comparisons between farms or between different carbon calculators. The requirement to model mitigations methods within the system and or demonstrate efficacy was highlighted. The AHDB/SRUC partner farm network should be used to demonstrate what is possible to achieve. The incentives were noted to be capital grants and the development of the carbon market. Dave then summarised the SRUC resources to be mitigation methods, economic modelling, marketing, abatement curves and specialist knowledge. He outlined that there has been too much emphasis placed on the technical aspect and not enough on the Knowledge Exchange side. He noted that the abatement curve model should be used to try to identify quick wins. Opportunities to sell carbon credits if they cease production – 200-300 euros per cow – might help people to leave the sector and reduce emissions. 


  • Dave Robert’s slides to be shared with the group

John Newbold noted that much of the current data held was at the UK level and was a little out of date. Therefore noting the potential value looking at the 2021 MAC analysis for Dairy specifically in Scotland, and whether it would lend to the effort to get technologies developed and adopted or whether it would be more of an academic exercise. John shared his view that the group should look at this as a discipline going forward as new science and information come to light, subject to the economics applying it to the situation and aim to identify both the quick wins and those with cost. 

Paul Flanagan delivered a presentation on the AHDB strategy, focusing on the environment and consumer views, and mentioned the tools available to measure and reduce environmental impact.

He noted that AHDB will run carbon audits across their strategic farms, including their two in Scotland, and share the findings and stories and journeys with all their levy payers. He mentioned the AHDB comms and marketing campaign which references the position of the UK in relation to other countries in terms of an environmental footprint, adding that consumers are interested in this area and questioning the Carbon footprint of the sector. Paul noted that it is vital that the entire supply chain star to use consistent figures and similar language to help drive forward consumer messaging. Paul recommended that it would be prudent to assist farmers in compliance with environmental legislation and provide guidance on access to environmental support. He mentioned three levels of support AHDB can provide to their levy payers – Level 1 – clear and simple KPI’s, Level 2 – Sharing the data from carbon audits of their strategic farms, and Level 3 - Benchmarking. Paul also noted that AHDB have commissioned Promar to look at how specific interventions could be used in the dairy sector and provided some emerging views.  


  • Paul Flanagan to share the AHDB/Promar paper when complete

Gaining focus 

Sarah Simpson presented her mind-map with the group which condensed the relevant factors influencing the dairy sector to bring a focus to the direction of the group. Sarah outlined the drivers of improving carbon efficiency in the sector – highlighting that whilst the group has been charged with focusing on the government end of the map, the sector is driven by banks, retailers and consumers. She highlighted that it is likely that banks and retailers may start to give further emphasis and requirements on be producers to reduce their carbon footprint and improve environmental conditions.

Sarah noted that noted that compared to other sectors in Agriculture, the dairy sector is less reliant of SG support/subsidies with market forces the main driver for many dairy enterprises. The group agreed with this position and agreed that wider market drivers needs to be considered by the group as part of their recommendations to Government. The group agreed that capital grants would be an essential incentive for uptake as would allow farmers to improve business efficiency, as would funding for upskilling and research.  


  • Sarah Simpson to circulate the mind-map

Next steps 

The chair outlined the requirement for a structured approach to developing the over-arching objectives of the group. The group agreed to break into smaller teams; three groups of four members to take forward the aspects and put together the detail. The chair outlined that the groups work should be categorised under a small number of overarching objectives which reflect the six outcomes for agriculture listed in the Climate Change Plan Update along with other wider 2030 strategy outcomes discussed during the meeting. It was agreed that thereafter specific proposals and measures would follow.

Note – Jackie and Sarah will circulate outline draft overarching objectives to the group and areas of specific work to subgroups.

Any other business/points to note

Our future meetings and work will have to cover the following areas:

  • need to support short supply chains and market driven incentives needs considered
  • SWOT analysis by the group will be used for putting together the report
  • knowledge sharing/buy in from the sector will be used in the report
  • calls for evidence will require asking specific questions
  • groups should utilise their networks to circulate the call for evidence questions
  • canvas opinions from farming for 1.5 degrees
  • LFA is an important issue for peripheral dairy areas (like Orkney) – so there is a need to recognise the importance of employment


  • Chair and Secretariat to agree agenda and speakers for the next meeting 
  • for next meeting the group are to think of survey questions in order to gather farmers opinions

Date of next meeting – 11th Feb.14:00 – 16:30

SRUC presentation: discussion on dairy climate mitigation, incentive and resources available

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