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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center » Cell Wall Biology and Utilization Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #370237

Research Project: Improving Utilization of Forages in Integrated Dairy Production Systems to Enhance Sustainable Farming Systems and Food Security

Location: Cell Wall Biology and Utilization Research

Title: Increasing dairy sustainability with integrated crop-livestock farming

item WIESNER, SUSANNE - Oak Ridge Institute For Science And Education (ORISE)
item Duff, Alison
item DESAI, ANKUR - University Of Wisconsin
item Panke-Buisse, Kevin

Submitted to: Sustainability
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/16/2020
Publication Date: 1/21/2020
Citation: Wiesner, S., Duff, A., Desai, A.R., Panke-Buisse, K. 2020. Increasing dairy sustainability with integrated crop-livestock farming. Sustainability. 12(3), 765.

Interpretive Summary: Dairy farms are important for meeting human nutritional needs and are predominantly carbon sources due to high livestock emissions from rumen fermentation and manure. Integrated crop-livestock systems (ICLS) are farm systems with the potential to offset their greenhouse gas emissions through an emphasis on recycling products within the farm boundaries. Cost and scale can make evaluation of farm systems difficult. We applied satellite data and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change guidelines to calculate whole-farm emissions from an ICLS. As a whole, the farm was a large carbon sink, owing to natural vegetation carbon sinks (i.e. forests and pastures) surrounding the crop fields and the majority of harvest products staying within the farm boundaries. In combination with soil conservation practices and best practice manure management, ICLS farming provides a sustainable means of producing nutritionally valuable food while contributing to sequestration of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Technical Abstract: Dairy farms are predominantly carbon sources, due to high livestock emissions from enteric fermentation and manure, which is increasingly problematic in light of climate change. Here, we quantify a seasonal greenhouse gas budget of an integrated crop-livestock system (ICLS) dairy farm in Wisconsin (550 ha cropland for ~750 animals, including dairy heifers, as well as both lactating and dry cows), using remote sensing techniques to estimate carbon sequestration of the vegetation, as well as guidelines published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to calculate farm emissions. Dairy cows accounted for 80% of all emissions largely as their feed intake dominated farm feed supply. Enteric carbon dioxide and methane emissions amounted to 39% and 46% of all barn and field greenhouse gas emissions. Manure emissions (15%) were comparatively low because farm manure spreading was frequent throughout the year. In addition to carbon exports from emissions, feed refusal and milk exports contributed to carbon exports. Our results highlight ILCS as potential carbon sinks that provide nutritionally valuable food for human consumption.