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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Title: Life cycle costing of a milk producing farm – cost assessment of environmental impact mitigation strategies

item Asselin, Anne
item Rotz, Clarence - Al
item Jolliet, Olivier

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/15/2011
Publication Date: 8/4/2011
Citation: Asselin, A., Rotz, C.A., Jolliet, O. 2011. Life cycle costing of a milk producing farm – cost assessment of environmental impact mitigation strategies. Meeting Proceedings. Available:

Interpretive Summary: An interpretive summary is not required.

Technical Abstract: Agriculture is a significant contributor to greenhouse gases (GHG). A study by the University of Arkansas showed that 70% of the carbon footprint of milk occurs before the farm gate. The goal of this study was to add costs to the GHG study to determine the impact of the farm milk production system on both the environment and production costs using the same boundaries. For a pilot farm located in upstate New York, the global breakdown of the different processes was assessed both in terms of carbon footprint and production costs, using the Integrated Farm System Model combined with a LCA approach. The option of changing the manure management system to an anaerobic digester was then determined, and the effect of this change was assessed with the double perspective of carbon footprint and costs. For this farm, the largest cost was feed production (45%), followed by milking and milk cooling (20%) and animal health costs (20%). The carbon footprint was dominated by enteric emissions (50%) followed by manure management (25%). Adding a digester with electricity production reduced the carbon footprint of the farm by 15 to 18%, depending on the performance of the digester. The runtime efficiency of the digester and electricity generator greatly influenced the economic viability of this added component. A breakeven cost was reached with an efficiency of 90%; whereas, the current efficiency is about 60%. In general, scenarios in the environmental-financial space include: - Win-win situations, in which the farmer gains both environmentally as well as financially; - Trade-off situations, in which significant environmental improvements are achieved with a moderate financial input. This study couples environmental impacts and costs, providing a general approach to improve the environmental footprint of milk production with a measure of the financial costs or benefits of production changes.

Last Modified: 08/19/2017
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