The carbon footprint of dairy production systems through partial life cycle assessment

C. A. Rotz, F. Montes, D. S. Chianese

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183 Scopus citations

Abstract

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and their potential effect on the environment has become an important national and international issue. Dairy production, along with all other types of animal agriculture, is a recognized source of GHG emissions, but little information exists on the net emissions from dairy farms. Component models for predicting all important sources and sinks of CH4, N2O, and CO2 from primary and secondary sources in dairy production were integrated in a software tool called the Dairy Greenhouse Gas model, or DairyGHG. This tool calculates the carbon footprint of a dairy production system as the net exchange of all GHG in CO2 equivalent units per unit of energy-corrected milk produced. Primary emission sources include enteric fermentation, manure, cropland used in feed production, and the combustion of fuel in machinery used to produce feed and handle manure. Secondary emissions are those occurring during the production of resources used on the farm, which can include fuel, electricity, machinery, fertilizer, pesticides, plastic, and purchased replacement animals. A long-term C balance is assumed for the production system, which does not account for potential depletion or sequestration of soil carbon. An evaluation of dairy farms of various sizes and production strategies gave carbon footprints of 0.37 to 0.69kg of CO2 equivalent units/kg of energy-corrected milk, depending upon milk production level and the feeding and manure handling strategies used. In a comparison with previous studies, DairyGHG predicted C footprints similar to those reported when similar assumptions were made for feeding strategy, milk production, allocation method between milk and animal coproducts, and sources of CO2 and secondary emissions. DairyGHG provides a relatively simple tool for evaluating management effects on net GHG emissions and the overall carbon footprint of dairy production systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1266-1282
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of dairy science
Volume93
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2010

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics

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