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Efficient Cows Are Also Environmentally Friendly
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 04/24/2015

Dairy farms with higher-producing cows create smaller carbon footprints and are more profitable, a win-win situation for everyone, including the cows, according to Victor Cabrera, University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension professor and dairy systems management specialist.

"Implementing dairy farm management strategies that increase milk production, decrease the herd replacement rate, or improve reproductive efficiency can increase farm profits while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions," Cabrera said.

Using the Integrated Farm System Model, Cabrera and Di Liang, PhD student, tested different management strategies for a typical Wisconsin farm to see what would be the outcome regarding the economics, the net return, and the environment. An IFSM simulation takes into account numerous interacting processes that include crop and pasture production, crop harvest, feed storage, grazing, feeding, and manure handling.

"We found that the closer a cow is to maximum milk production potential, the more efficient they are both economically and environmentally," Cabrera said.

As cows give more milk, they eat more and use more resources. However, since maintenance feed has already been accounted for, any additional feed consumed is used specifically for milk production. From an efficiency standpoint, more milk is produced in relation to environmental effects as milk production increases.

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