Practices to Reduce Milk Carbon Footprint on Grazing Dairy Farms in Southern Uruguay: Case Studies

Carolina Lizarralde, Valentin Picasso, C. Alan Rotz, Monica Cadenazzi, Laura Astigarraga


Carbon footprint (CF) is an increasingly important indicator of the impact of a product on climate change. This study followed international guidelines to quantify the CF of milk produced on 24 grazing-based dairy farms in southern Uruguay. Cows grazed all year-round and were supplemented with concentrate feeds. Dairy farms varied in annual milk yield per cow (5672 ± 1245 kg fat and protein corrected milk [FPCM]), milk production per ha (4075 ± 1360 kg FPCM/ha), cow stocking rate (0.71 ± 0.12 cows/ha), feed intake (13.3 ± 2.2 kg dry matter [DM]/cow/day) and percentage of concentrate in the diet (36 ± 12% DM) giving an average CF of 0.99 ± 0.10 kg CO2 (equivalent [eq]/kg FPCM) over all farms. Total milk production per ha, milk yield per cow and dry matter intake explained most of the variation in CF. Strategies that provide the highest milk production per ha using high yielding cows and a high portion of lactating cows in the herd were identified as the best management practices for reducing CF. Low forage intake in Uruguay is often a consequence of low yielding pastures and high stocking rates. Overall, this study concluded that a reduction in CF is not achieved through increased concentrate intake unless forage consumption is also unconstrained. Improved pasture and feeding management can be used to reduce the CF of milk produced in Uruguay.

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