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An assessment of the energy footprint of dairy farms in Missouri and Emilia-Romagna

Pagani, Marco, Vittuari, Matteo, Johnson, Thomas G., De Menna, Fabio
Agricultural systems 2016 v.145 pp. 116-126
European Union, alfalfa, carbon, carbon footprint, dairy farming, electricity, energy efficiency, farms, fertilizers, forage, fossil fuels, industry, issues and policy, livestock, milk, milk production, organic production, pesticides, prices, production technology, seeds, supply chain, wastes, Italy, Missouri
The strong dependence of the livestock sector on fossil fuel could be challenged in a matter of decades or sooner, either by rising fossil fuels prices of by the commitments foreseen under carbon emission reduction protocols. In this context, it is relevant to assess the energy footprint of animal products and to identify potential strategies for the transition towards a greater reliance on renewable energy.The present research was based on a comparative analysis of milk production systems in Missouri, USA and in Emilia-Romagna (EU NUT 2), Italy. A total of fifteen dairy farms, either grain based, forage based or organic, were investigated, using data on direct (fuel and electricity) and indirect (structures, machinery, feed, fertilizers, pesticides, seeds) energy inputs. All inputs were reported in the functional unit of 1kg of Energy Corrected Milk (ECM). The impacts of feeding practices, fertilizer use intensity and organic methods on energy consumption levels were evaluated and discussed.Emilian farms showed a lower energy input than Missouri farms, mainly due to their greater reliance on alfalfa as feed, and less use of fertilizers and fuel. Forage based farming was more energy efficient in Missouri, while organic farming was more efficient in Italy.This research suggests that policy interventions could lead to lower energy input dairy systems by promoting reduced use of fertilizers, and by minimizing waste along the milk supply chain, and thereby encouraging a more sustainable industry.