This study aimed to evaluate the environmental footprint and feed energy conversion ratio of Alpine dairy chains in the Eastern Alps, taking into account both the milk production and dairy processing phases, and to identify farm management features useful for targeting mitigation measures in the production phase. A cradle-to-farm gate Life Cycle Assessment model that included herd and manure management, on-farm feedstuff production and purchased feedstuffs and materials (dairy farm), and production inputs and dairy outputs (dairy processing) was applied to 75 farms (10 dairies). As functional units, we used 1 kg fat- and protein-corrected milk (FPCM) and 1 m2 of agricultural land, to account for production intensity and land managed by alpine farms, respectively. Impact categories (CML-IA and CED methods, background data from Ecoinvent database) assessed were global warming (GWP), GWP plus land-use change (GWP_LUC), acidification (AP) and eutrophication (EP) potentials, cumulative energy demand (CED) and land occupation (LO). Feed energy conversion ratio (whole diet - ECR; potentially human-edible portion of the diet - HeECR) was computed as the ratio between gross energy in feeds and that in milk. Mean ECR was 6.6 ± 0.5 MJ feed/MJ milk, of which only 8% derived from potentially human-edible feedstuffs. For 1 kg of FPCM at the dairy farm, GWP averaged 1.19 kg CO2-eq, GWP_LUC 1.31 kg CO2-eq, AP 17.3 g SO2-eq and EP 6.0 g PO4-eq (coefficients of variation, CV, ranged 17–21%), whereas mean CED was 2.7 MJ and LO 2.1 m2/y (CVs: 40–46%). When dairy processing was included, the impact values for 1 kg of dairy product were from 8 to 13 times greater than those obtained for 1 kg FPCM. Based on the outcomes of a principal component analysis, the farm management features most related to impacts and feed ratios were milk yield (MY, for the impacts per unit of milk and ECR), stocking rate (SR, for the impacts per unit of area), and percentages of concentrates (C, for GWP_LUC and HeECR). Step-wise analysis evidenced that strategies aiming to decrease the environmental footprint referred to milk and managed area at the same time and to improve the feed energy conversion ratios should include MY, SR and C jointly. These issues are particularly important for the sustainability of mountain farming systems, which need to create a virtuous link with local forage resources and the territory.

Environmental impacts of milk production and processing in the Eastern Alps: A “cradle-to-dairy gate” LCA approach

Bovolenta S.;Corazzin M.;Spigarelli C.;Zuliani A.;
2021

Abstract

This study aimed to evaluate the environmental footprint and feed energy conversion ratio of Alpine dairy chains in the Eastern Alps, taking into account both the milk production and dairy processing phases, and to identify farm management features useful for targeting mitigation measures in the production phase. A cradle-to-farm gate Life Cycle Assessment model that included herd and manure management, on-farm feedstuff production and purchased feedstuffs and materials (dairy farm), and production inputs and dairy outputs (dairy processing) was applied to 75 farms (10 dairies). As functional units, we used 1 kg fat- and protein-corrected milk (FPCM) and 1 m2 of agricultural land, to account for production intensity and land managed by alpine farms, respectively. Impact categories (CML-IA and CED methods, background data from Ecoinvent database) assessed were global warming (GWP), GWP plus land-use change (GWP_LUC), acidification (AP) and eutrophication (EP) potentials, cumulative energy demand (CED) and land occupation (LO). Feed energy conversion ratio (whole diet - ECR; potentially human-edible portion of the diet - HeECR) was computed as the ratio between gross energy in feeds and that in milk. Mean ECR was 6.6 ± 0.5 MJ feed/MJ milk, of which only 8% derived from potentially human-edible feedstuffs. For 1 kg of FPCM at the dairy farm, GWP averaged 1.19 kg CO2-eq, GWP_LUC 1.31 kg CO2-eq, AP 17.3 g SO2-eq and EP 6.0 g PO4-eq (coefficients of variation, CV, ranged 17–21%), whereas mean CED was 2.7 MJ and LO 2.1 m2/y (CVs: 40–46%). When dairy processing was included, the impact values for 1 kg of dairy product were from 8 to 13 times greater than those obtained for 1 kg FPCM. Based on the outcomes of a principal component analysis, the farm management features most related to impacts and feed ratios were milk yield (MY, for the impacts per unit of milk and ECR), stocking rate (SR, for the impacts per unit of area), and percentages of concentrates (C, for GWP_LUC and HeECR). Step-wise analysis evidenced that strategies aiming to decrease the environmental footprint referred to milk and managed area at the same time and to improve the feed energy conversion ratios should include MY, SR and C jointly. These issues are particularly important for the sustainability of mountain farming systems, which need to create a virtuous link with local forage resources and the territory.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11390/1205407
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