Many of the climate change mitigation options for dairy systems that aim at optimizing milk production imply a reduced output of meat from these systems. The objective of this study was to evaluate effectiveness of a number of mitigation strategies for dairy systems, taking into account compensation for changes in the amount of beef produced. Four commonly used mitigation strategies for dairy systems were evaluated using an LCA modelling approach: increasing the milk production per cow, extending the productive life span of cows, increasing the calving interval, and changing breed from Holstein Friesian to Jersey. The Dutch dairy system was taken as a case study. For each scenario, analyses were done in two steps. First, effects of the mitigation strategy on production of milk and carcass weight from the dairy system were calculated. Second, GHG emission intensities were calculated for three different functional units (FU): one kg of fat and protein corrected milk (FPCM), one kg of carcass weight (CW), and a fixed amount of milk and beef (i.e. 1 kg FPCM and 40 g CW). In the third FU, in case the amount of CW produced by the dairy system was lower than 40 g per kg FPCM, the remainder was compensated by CW produced in pure beef systems, assuming a GHG emission intensity of 30 kg CO2-eq. per kg CW for pure beef. Results showed a reduction in CW per kg FPCM from the dairy system in all four mitigation strategies. Considering GHG emissions per kg of FPCM only, the strategies reduced emissions by 0.2 to 18.1%. When considering emissions per kg of CW only, emissions were reduced by 12.5 to 48.9%. However, when we used a FU of 1 kg FPCM and 40 g CW, changes in emissions ranged from −0.2 to 3.8%. This was caused by the compensation of the lower CW production from dairy systems by CW from pure beef systems. Differences in emissions per kg FPCM and 40 g CW were smaller when the assumed emission intensity of pure beef was lower. We concluded that the mitigation strategies for dairy systems evaluated in this study were less effective for reduction of GHG emissions from production of milk and beef, when accounting for changes in the amount of beef produced. This study showed that the challenge of reducing GHG emissions of milk and beef production is interrelated. Hence, analyses of GHG emissions related to changes in production of milk and beef requires an integrated approach, beyond the system boundaries of the dairy farm.
Agricultural Systems – Elsevier
Published: May 1, 2018
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