Submitted to: Proceedings of the Maryland Nutrition Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/15/2013
Publication Date: 3/26/2014
Citation: Rotz, C.A. 2014. Impact of increasing milk production on whole farm environmental management. Proceedings of the Maryland Nutrition Conference. p. 39-44.
Interpretive Summary: An interpretive summary is not required.
Technical Abstract: Increasing herd milk production can provide both economic benefit to the producer and environmental benefit to society. Simulated dairy farms with average annual herd productions from 16,000 to 30,000 lb/cow illustrate that increasing milk yield per cow improves feed efficiency, reduces feed costs and likely improves farm profit when other management aspects are held the same. The farm-gate carbon footprint of milk production decreases about 1% for every 2,000 lb increase in annual herd production. Fossil energy use, reactive nitrogen loss, and water use per unit of milk produced also decrease with increasing milk production but at a lower rate. Although environmental benefits will be obtained as herd milk production continues to increase in the future, the benefit obtained per unit increase in milk production is decreasing. At the higher production levels now attained, less gain in feed efficiency (and the associated environmental benefits) is obtained per unit gain in milk production because the maintenance requirement of the animals is a smaller portion of the total requirement. Other management factors associated with milk production can provide environmental benefits, so these interactions should also be considered. For example, use of grazing at a lower production level can provide a carbon footprint for milk similar to that produced by higher producing herds in confinement with greater reductions in fossil energy use and reactive nitrogen loss. Although increased milk production per cow is an important strategy for reducing the environmental impacts of milk production, other management strategies can also help, even at low milk production levels.