Section 38
Chapter 37,041

Effect of farming strategies on environmental impact of intensive dairy farms in Italy

Guerci, M.; Bava, L.; Zucali, M.; Sandrucci, A.; Penati, C.; Tamburini, A.

Journal of Dairy Research 80(3): 300-308


ISSN/ISBN: 1469-7629
PMID: 23806128
DOI: 10.1017/s0022029913000277
Accession: 037040504

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Agriculture and animal husbandry are important contributors to global emissions of greenhouse (GHG) and acidifying gases. Moreover, they contribute to water pollution and to consumption of non-renewable natural resources such as land and energy. The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology allows evaluation of the environmental impact of a process from the production of inputs to the final product and to assess simultaneously several environmental impact categories among which GHG emissions, acidification, eutrophication, land use and energy use. The main purpose of this study was to evaluate, using the LCA methodology, the environmental impact of milk production in a sample of 41 intensive Italian dairy farms and to identify, among different farming strategies, those associated with the best environmental performances. The functional unit was 1 kg Fat and Protein Corrected Milk (FPCM). Farms showed characteristics of high production intensity: FPCM, expressed as tonnes per hectare, was 30·8±15·1. Total GHG emission per kg FPCM at farm gate was 1·30±0·19 kg CO2 eq. The main contributors to climate change potential were emissions from barns and manure storage (50·1%) and emissions for production and transportation of purchased feeds (21·2%). Average emission of gases causing acidification to produce 1 kg FPCM was 19·7±3·6 g of SO2 eq. Eutrophication potential was 9·01±1·78 ${rm PO}_{rm 4}^{{rm 3} -} {rm eq}.$ per kg FPCM on average. Farms from this study needed on average 5·97±1·32 MJ per kg FPCM from non-renewable energy sources. Energy consumption was mainly due to off-farm activities (58%) associated with purchased factors. Land use was 1·51±0·25 m2 per kg FPCM. The farming strategy based on high conversion efficiency at animal level was identified as the most effective to mitigate the environmental impact per kg milk at farm gate, especially in terms of GHG production and non-renewable energy use per kg FPCM.

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