Cows at bunk.
October 23, 2019

Increased Cow Efficiency Leads to Stunning Decrease in Resource Utilization

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

An increase in milk per cow over the past decade has led to a stunning improvement in the amount of feed needed to produce that milk and a subsequent reduction in the amount of manure and greenhouse gases (GHG) produced.

In 2009, researchers Jude Capper, Roger Cady and Dale Bauman looked at the environmental footprint of the U.S. dairy industry between 1944 and 2009. They found that it took 90% less land, 65% less water and produced a 63% small carbon footprint to produce a gallon of milk over those 65 years.

At the request of the Journal of Animal Science, Capper and Cady performed a follow-up assessment, looking at the 2007 through 2017 timeframe. The assessment looks only at field to the farm gate, and does not look at the whole value chain from field through to the consumer’s refrigerator.

Nevertheless, the results are again impressive. The study found:

  • In 2017, producing a unit of milk required:
    • 74.8% of the cows needed in 2007 for the same amount of milk = 25.2% reduction
    • 82.7% of the feedstuffs needed in 2007 for the same amount of milk = 17.3% reduction
    • 79.2% of the land needed in 2007 for the same amount of milk = 20.8% reduction
    • 69.5% of the water needed in 2007 for the same amount of milk = 30.5% reduction
    • The GHG emissions per unit of milk in 2017 were 80.8% of equivalent milk production in 2007 = 19.2% reduction

There was also a reduction in the amount of waste produced in 2017 versus 2007.

  • In 2017, producing a unit of milk required:
    • 79.4% of the manure produced in 2007 = 20.6% reduction
    • 82.5% of the nitrogen excreted in 2007 = 17.5% reduction
    • 85.7% of the phosphorus excreted in 2007 = 14.3% reduction

Although total milk production in the U.S. increased by 24.9% between 2007 and 2017, the total GHG emissions from milk increased by only 1%, according to this study.

You can read the entire study here.

 

 

 

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