The use of low environmental input foods into the stable aims to improve the management of the rations fed to dairy cows.
Breeders, farmers, users of fodder
Environmental input is the cost in terms of energy and environmental resources spent to produce the good. Both for environmental and for economic reasons, it is preferable to use low input foods, with a slight cost in environmental and energy terms, with a reduction of the overall LCA of the supply chain.
This improvement will be quantifiable in terms of:
- feed efficiency (kg of dry substance of the ration administered per kg of milk produced)
- environmental impact (carbon footprint and eutrophication).
- Economic Sustainability, rating with the Income Over Feed Cost (IOFC)
What do we mean when we talk about efficiency in the dairy industry?
First of all it is the ability of an animal, or a herd, to transform the least possible amount of food in the greatest possible quantity of milk.
More in general is the ability to produce milk at the lowest possible cost; in other words economic efficiency should aim at maximizing the company’s income. The whole company management it’s involved in all its components, such as soil and crop rotations, work organization, the ability to ensure adequate animal welfare, funding sources, and so on.
And as for environmental efficiency it can be measured based on the amount of emissions per unit of product.
And however it is becoming increasingly clear that the economic objective does not arise as an alternative with the environmental one. In some ways it can be said that environmental improvements are certain, whereas economic ones are uncertain and / or delayed because they depend heavily on the market.
Datas collected by Associazione Mantovana Allevatori have shown that companies that produce a higher income are also the least impacting from the environmental point of view, for example in terms of land use and energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. This kind of companies are usually characterized also by a good production of milk and a high efficiency. From this point of view it seems particularly significant also a not excessive load of cattle per hectare: it is a further demonstration that the proper management of waste water is combined with the company’s profitability.
With regard to interventions related to improving nutrition it is of paramount importance:
- improving the quality of the food, especially the digestibility of forages
- adopting a ration that, through a balanced supply of nutrients, allows for better digestibility of the total ration
- making sure that each animal has easy access to food and water
This method allows to get a first lower passage of undigested substances in the intestinal tract, thus limiting the enteric fermentation of the fiber with increased production of methane. Moreover, a more digestible ration allows higher production, because often accompanies a greater ingestion diluting the share of maintaining and lowering the production of methane and effluent per kg of milk.