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Biology Articles » Agriculture » Animal Production » Milk goes ‘green’: Today’s dairy farms use less land, feed and water
ITHACA, N.Y. — Dairy genetics,
nutrition, herd management and improved animal welfare over the past 60 years
have resulted in a modern milk production system that has a smaller carbon
footprint than mid-20th century farming practices, says a Cornell University
study in the Journal of Animal Science (June 2009).
“As U.S. and global populations continue to increase, it is
critical to adopt management practices and technologies to produce sufficient
high-quality food from a finite resource supply, while minimizing effects upon
the environment,” says Jude Capper, lead author and a recent Cornell
post-doctoral researcher working with Dale E. Bauman, Cornell Liberty Hyde
Bailey Professor of Animal Science.
The study, “The Environmental Impact of Dairy Production:
1944 compared with 2007,” shows that the carbon footprint for a gallon of milk
produced in 2007 was only 37 percent of that produced in 1944. Improved efficiency has enabled the U.S.
dairy industry to produce 186 billion pounds of milk from 9.2 million cows in
2007, compared to only 117 billion pounds of milk from 25.6 million cows in
1944. This has resulted in a 41 percent
decrease in the total carbon footprint for U.S. milk production.
Efficiency also resulted in reductions in resource use and
waste output. Modern dairy systems only
use 10 percent of the land, 23 percent of the feedstuffs and 35 percent of the
water required to produce the same amount of milk in 1944. Similarly, 2007 dairy farming produced only
24 percent of the manure and 43 percent of the methane output per gallon of milk
compared to farming in 1944.
-- News release courtesy of Cornell University
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