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Life cycle assessment of milk produced in two smallholder dairy systems in the highlands and the coast of Peru

Bartl, Karin, Gómez, Carlos A., Nemecek, Thomas
Journal of cleaner production 2011 v.19 no.13 pp. 1494-1505
acidification, byproducts, carbon dioxide, coasts, corn, dairy cows, diet, emissions, energy, environmental impact, eutrophication, farms, fermentation, forage, global warming, highlands, irrigation water, land use, life cycle inventory, livestock feeding, methane production, milk, milk production, permanent grasslands, production technology, soybeans, sulfur dioxide, Peru
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) was applied to two smallholder milk production systems in Peru in order to evaluate the environmental burden of milk produced in each. An Andean highland milk production system where livestock feeding is restricted to permanent pastures supplemented with on farm grown ryegrass-clover was opposed to a coastal system with dairy cows fed a diet consisting of fodder maize and purchased concentrate. Milk production levels (kg/cow day) differed considerably with 2.57 for the highland and 19.54 for the coastal system. A Life Cycle Inventory was calculated for the functional unit of 1 kg energy corrected milk (ECM) and the environmental impacts global warming, acidification and eutrophication were estimated for 1 kg ECM, 1 ha and 1 animal, considering the multi-functionality of the system. The highland system was characterized by a high land use (23.1 m²a/kg ECM vs. 1.71 m²a/kg ECM at the coast). Irrigation water and energy were on the other hand used to a much higher amount at the coast (7291 l/kg ECM and 8791 MJ/kg ECM, respectively) than in the highlands (848 l/kg ECM and 0.20 MJ/kg ECM). Global warming potential, acidification and eutrophication were higher for 1 kg ECM produced in the highlands than at the coast by 10.6 kg CO₂ equivalents, 6.58 g sulfur dioxide equivalents and 10.63 g phosphate equivalents, respectively. Nevertheless, 5220 kg CO₂ equivalents more were emitted per animal at the coast than in the highlands. Also acidification and eutrophication were estimated to be on average 6 and 4 times higher at the coast compared to the highlands when expressed for the functional units of 1 ha and 1 animal. RESULTS: Whereas livestock is mainly responsible for impacts on the environment in the highlands, at the coast both livestock related emissions and forage cultivation play an important role. Furthermore CO₂ releases from soybean cultivations heavily contribute to total emissions. Sensitivity analysis indicates that for dairy systems relying on crop by-products as feed the choice of the allocation method is a crucial point in a LCA study. Based on the results of this study, strategies in order to reduce the environmental burden of milk production should focus on an increase of production levels and a reduction of methane emissions from enteric fermentation in the highlands and a modification of the concentrate components replacing soya as the protein source at the coast.