Dairy Farming

The geography of dairy farming

Environmental, Social and Economic Impacts of Primary Production


- The production of milk has a large impact on the environment. Cows produce methane and nitrous oxide in their digestive system. These greenhouse gases are 21 and 296 times stronger than carbon dioxide respectively. Therefore, the dairy industry contributes 3% of the global greenhouse gas emission.

- One cow can produce up to 54 kg of wet manure per day. Cow's manure pollutes water and soil and can disturb the natural nutrient balance needed for normal plant growth.

- The Australian Dairy Industry is responsible for using mass amounts of water and land. in 2005, the industry used 19% of all the water needed for the agricultural industry. This is more than 12% of all the water used in Australia.

- Deforestation often occurs for the need to produce cattle feed.


- The dairy industry is an economic powerhouse and has several economic impacts. Dairy is Australia's 3rd largest rural industry, behind wheat and beef. The annual milk production for Australia is approx. 9.2 billion litres, 5,525 litres per cow.

- It is a $13 billion farm, manufacturing and export industry, positively effecting the Australian economy and boosting its GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

- Dairy is a major export industry for Australia, worth $2.76 Billion, which accounts for 7% of World Dairy Trade. Australia exports dairy products to a variety of countries, but their major trade markets are in Japan (125,000 tonnes), China (129,000 tonnes) and Singapore (84,000 tonnes).

- The milk produced is used to produce a variety of products, including Cheese (33%), SMP/Butter (28%), Drinking milk (27%), Whole milk powder (9%) and other (3%).


- The dairy industry has many significant social impacts on life in Australia. We eat dairy products on a daily basis and it provides jobs for many Australians.

- Australia's per capita consumption of drinking milk and cheese has increased over the last 5 years, reaching 107 litres and 13.5 kg respectively last year.

- The dairy industry also provides employment. Direct employment (e.g farmers, milk transportation drivers) currently stands at 43,000, while indirect employment (e.g factory workers) is approximately 100,000.

- The Australian people place higher demand on certain dairy products rather than others. The main dairy products produced for Australians are Milk (333,000 tonnes), Cheese (338,000 tonnes) and Butter (118,200 tonnes).

Current Issues Related to Primary Production