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Will make European milk more sustainable


Photo: Yngve Rekdal

It is estimated that greenhouse gas emissions from beef and dairy farming represents around 14.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In a new international research project, European milk production will be made more sustainable.

The Norwegian dairy industry is already very sustainable, especially as farmyard manure and feed resources from cultivated land as well as rangeland are used optimally. Nevertheless, there is a desire from a business management point of view to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Utilising less imported concentrate feed and mineral fertiliser, will not only save money but also Co₂ equivalents.

In the DairyMix project, the researchers are collecting large amounts of data from dairy producers across Europe. This is mainly information about environmental, economic and social input factors gathered through interviews and farm visits. Data from sensors that measure greenhouse gases in cowsheds, will add to the complete database that shows how specific measures work on livestock of various sizes in different regions.

European milk production covers a wide range of climates and weather conditions as well as many different farm sizes and production systems, not to mention a range of different traditions. In Norway the researchers have selected six representative focus farms. Production data, soil and crop data, finances and data of a more sociological nature are collected from here. Calculations and modelling are then performed. After a comprehensive life cycle analysis, the so-called decision support tool will finally see the light of day.

This decision support tool will enable the producers to make sustainable decisions for their dairy enterprises. If such a tool is to work in practice, it must have a good foundation in the practical day-to-day work of the industry.

For example, we will be able to see how changing the cows’ feed additives might result in more sustainable production. The differences in European milk production are too great to generate a one-size-fits-all formula. But the larger the dataset, the more variation in production system the database will cover.