In the European Alps traditional, low-input dairy farming systems still coexist with modern high-input intensive systems. This study aimed at evaluating the effect of different Alpine farming systems on the environmental footprint, production efficiency (gross energy conversion ratio, ECR) and competition between feed and food (potentially human-edible gross energy conversion ratio, HeECR). Data originated from 37 dairy farms located in the Trento province (eastern Italian Alps), from which four dairy systems were derived by performing non-hierarchical cluster analysis based on farm facilities and management features (traditional, either with tie or loose stalls, and intensive, either with or without use of silages, systems). Environmental footprint was computed using a cradle-to-farm gate Life Cycle Assessment model. One kg fat- and protein-corrected Milk (FPCM) and 1 m2 of agricultural land were used as functional units. Global warming (GWP), acidification (AP) and eutrophication (EP) potentials, cumulative energy demand (CED) and land occupation (LO) were included as impact categories. System boundaries included herd and manure management, on-farm feedstuffs production and purchased feedstuffs and materials. Mean impact values per 1 kg FPCM were 1.0 ± 0.3 kg CO2-eq (GWP), 21.1 ± 4.3 g SO2-eq. (AP), 6.3 ± 1.2 g PO4-eq. (EP), 5.0 ± 2.0 MJ (CED), 1.4 ± 0.5 m2/y (LO), whereas per 1 m2 were 0.8 ± 0.3 kg CO2-eq (GWP), 16.3 ± 4.2 g SO2-eq. (AP), 4.9 ± 1.3 g PO4-eq. (EP), 3.8 ± 1.8 MJ (CED). Mean ECR was 5.17 ± 0.89 MJ/MJ, with 88% of gross energy provided by non-human edible feedstuffs. A large variability was found both between and within dairy systems, in terms of environmental footprint and production efficiency. Impact values were slightly greater per unit of product and lower per unit of area in traditional than in intensive farms, although generally without significant differences. Production efficiency of traditional farms was 17% lower in terms of ECR but 59% greater in terms of HeECR, due to a lower proportion of purchased concentrates in animal rations, with a positive contribution to food balance and diet self-sufficiency. These results indicate that the transition from traditional towards intensive systems improved only slightly the environmental footprint of dairy farming, but increased markedly its dependence on external concentrate feeds and the feed-food competition. In perspective, different aspects of mountain dairy systems, such as the conversion into food of human non edible feeds, the low impacts at the local scale, the ability to conserve grasslands under a land-sharing perspective, and in general the associated ecosystem services, should be considered when aiming to improve their environmental sustainability.

Environmental impact and efficiency of use of resources of different mountain dairy farming systems

Berton M.
Membro del Collaboration Group
;
Bittante G.
Membro del Collaboration Group
;
Zendri F.
Membro del Collaboration Group
;
Ramanzin M.
Membro del Collaboration Group
;
Schiavon S.
Membro del Collaboration Group
;
Sturaro E.
Membro del Collaboration Group
2020

Abstract

In the European Alps traditional, low-input dairy farming systems still coexist with modern high-input intensive systems. This study aimed at evaluating the effect of different Alpine farming systems on the environmental footprint, production efficiency (gross energy conversion ratio, ECR) and competition between feed and food (potentially human-edible gross energy conversion ratio, HeECR). Data originated from 37 dairy farms located in the Trento province (eastern Italian Alps), from which four dairy systems were derived by performing non-hierarchical cluster analysis based on farm facilities and management features (traditional, either with tie or loose stalls, and intensive, either with or without use of silages, systems). Environmental footprint was computed using a cradle-to-farm gate Life Cycle Assessment model. One kg fat- and protein-corrected Milk (FPCM) and 1 m2 of agricultural land were used as functional units. Global warming (GWP), acidification (AP) and eutrophication (EP) potentials, cumulative energy demand (CED) and land occupation (LO) were included as impact categories. System boundaries included herd and manure management, on-farm feedstuffs production and purchased feedstuffs and materials. Mean impact values per 1 kg FPCM were 1.0 ± 0.3 kg CO2-eq (GWP), 21.1 ± 4.3 g SO2-eq. (AP), 6.3 ± 1.2 g PO4-eq. (EP), 5.0 ± 2.0 MJ (CED), 1.4 ± 0.5 m2/y (LO), whereas per 1 m2 were 0.8 ± 0.3 kg CO2-eq (GWP), 16.3 ± 4.2 g SO2-eq. (AP), 4.9 ± 1.3 g PO4-eq. (EP), 3.8 ± 1.8 MJ (CED). Mean ECR was 5.17 ± 0.89 MJ/MJ, with 88% of gross energy provided by non-human edible feedstuffs. A large variability was found both between and within dairy systems, in terms of environmental footprint and production efficiency. Impact values were slightly greater per unit of product and lower per unit of area in traditional than in intensive farms, although generally without significant differences. Production efficiency of traditional farms was 17% lower in terms of ECR but 59% greater in terms of HeECR, due to a lower proportion of purchased concentrates in animal rations, with a positive contribution to food balance and diet self-sufficiency. These results indicate that the transition from traditional towards intensive systems improved only slightly the environmental footprint of dairy farming, but increased markedly its dependence on external concentrate feeds and the feed-food competition. In perspective, different aspects of mountain dairy systems, such as the conversion into food of human non edible feeds, the low impacts at the local scale, the ability to conserve grasslands under a land-sharing perspective, and in general the associated ecosystem services, should be considered when aiming to improve their environmental sustainability.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11577/3330966
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