Dairy Industry Making Strides Toward Reducing Its Carbon Footprint

Solution is higher producing, longer-living cows, according to new Journal of Dairy Science® Study

Philadelphia, PA, March 17, 2015

Agricultural greenhouse gases (GHG) make up 8.1% of total U.S. GHG emissions. The dairy cattle farming industry is being challenged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining or increasing profitability. In a study published in the Journal of Dairy Science®, researchers report that farms with lower carbon footprints and higher-producing cows are more profitable, a win-win situation for everyone, including the cows.

Investigators Di Liang, PhD candidate, and Victor E. Cabrera, PhD, from the Department of Dairy Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, used the Integrated Farm System Model (IFSM), available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to simulate the performance of a representative Wisconsin dairy farm and predict both financial and environmental outputs over a 25-year period. An IFSM simulation takes into account numerous interacting processes that include crop and pasture production, crop harvest, feed storage, grazing, feeding, and manure handling.

“We found that greenhouse gas emissions per kg of energy-corrected milk production will be reduced by increasing milk production, decreasing the herd replacement rate, or improving reproductive efficiency. Therefore appropriate dairy farm management strategies could provide a solution that increases the farm profit while decreasing the greenhouse gas emissions,” noted Dr. Cabrera.

In their model, the farm had 100 large milking cows and 100 hectares of rented cropland. Topography and soil type were defined, as were crop mix (alfalfa and corn), numbers and types of farm equipment, as well as planting and harvesting schedules. The researchers measured how the model responded to two major management practices: target milk production, whereby feed allocations are varied to achieve a desired output per animal; and herd-structure as represented by the percentage of young, first-lactation cows.

“The dairy industry is committed to the economic sustainability of our farmers by selecting a new generation of healthy, long-lived, high production cows,” commented Journal of Dairy Science® Editor-in-Chief Matthew C. Lucy, PhD, Professor of Animal Science at the University of Missouri. “What the models are telling us is that working toward this goal will reduce the carbon footprint of our industry.” He believes that this study demonstrates that reducing dairy carbon footprint is not contrary to farm profitability, and in fact, the two are complementary.

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Notes for editors
“Optimizing productivity, herd structure, environmental performance, and profitability of dairy cattle herds,” by D. Liang and V. E. Cabrera. Journal of Dairy Science, Volume 98, Issue 4 (April 2015), DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2014-8856, published by Elsevier.

Full text of this article is available to credentialed journalists upon request. Contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732-238-3628 or jdsmedia@elsevier.com to obtain copies. Journalists wishing to set up interviews with the authors may contact Victor E. Cabrera directly at vcabrera@wisc.edu.

About  Journal of Diary Science®
Journal of Dairy Science (JDS), official journal of the American Dairy Science Association, is co-published by Elsevier and the Federation of Animal Science Societies for the American Dairy Science Association. It is the leading general dairy research journal in the world. JDS readers represent education, industry, and government agencies in more than 70 countries with interests in biochemistry, breeding, economics, engineering, environment, food science, genetics, microbiology, nutrition, pathology, physiology, processing, public health, quality assurance, and sanitation. JDS is ranked number 2 in the Agriculture, Dairy and Animal Science category of the 2013 Journal Citation Reports®, published by Thomson Reuters, with a 5-year Impact Factor of 3.080. www.journalofdairyscience.org

About the American Diary Science Association (ADSA)
The American Dairy Science Association (ADSA), a member of the Federation of Animal Science Societies (FASS), is an international organization of educators, scientists and industry representatives who are committed to advancing the dairy industry and keenly aware of the vital role the dairy sciences play in fulfilling the economic, nutritive, and health requirements of the world's population. It provides leadership in scientific and technical support to sustain and grow the global dairy industry through generation, dissemination, and exchange of information and services. Together, ADSA members have discovered new methods and technologies that have revolutionized the dairy industry. www.adsa.org

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions — among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Research Intelligence and ClinicalKey— and publishes over 2,500 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and more than 35,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works. Elsevier is part of RELX Group, a world-leading provider of information and analytics for professional and business customers across industries. www.elsevier.com

Media Contact
Eileen Leahy
Elsevier
Tel: +1 732-238-3628
 jdsmedia@elsevier.com

Ken Olson, PhD, PAS
American Dairy Science Association®
Tel: +1 630-237-4961
keolson@prodigy.net