Changes in management a great potential for reducing carbon foot print

By changing management practices on farm, the carbon footprint of milk can be reduced, according to a Swedish study. Production data from more than 1000 Swedish dairy farms was analysed, and a variation in carbon footprint of +- 17% due to differences in management practice and outputs, was found. The variation indicates that there is a potential to decrease the carbon footprint for milk.

The largest variation and potential was found in Nitrogen-fertiliser rate and the amount of diesel used on farm, where the variation in carbon footprint was 31% to 38%.

Milk yield and feed intake are the two most influential parameters in carbon footprint estimates, which indicates that FCE, feed conversion efficiency, (units ECM produced / unit DMI) can be used as a rough key performance indicator to reduce milk carbon footprint on farm level.

Seven production parameters was used in the analysis:

  • milk yield - ECM (energy-corrected milk) produced and
  • delivered share of  produced ECM,
  • feed dry matter intake (DMI),
  • enteric CH4 emissions,
  • N content in feed DMI,
  • N-fertiliser rate and
  • diesel used on farm.

The largest between-farm variations were the N-fertiliser rate (kg/ha) and diesel used (l/ha) on farm (CV, carbon variation=31% to 38%).

For milk yield and feed DMI the CV was approximately 11% and 8%, respectively. The smallest variation in the study was found for N content in feed DMI. These variations in production data led to a carbon footprint variation of between 0.94 and 1.33 kg CO2 equivalents (CO2e)/kg ECM. The average was 1.13 kg CO2e/kg ECM. It must be remembered that feeds have different CF due to where and how they are produced.

Read the whole study from the Swedish University of Agriculture, SLU, here


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Monica Wadsworth

Monica Wadsworth
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