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Abstract

The European Union Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) will require a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 compared with 2005 from the sectors not included in the European Emissions Trading Scheme, including agriculture. This will require the estimation of current and future emissions from agriculture, including dairy cattle production systems. Using a farm-scale model as part of a Tier 3 method for farm to national scales provides a more holistic and informative approach than IPCC (2006) Tier 2 but requires independent quality control. Comparing the results of using models to simulate a range of scenarios that explore an appropriate range of biophysical and management situations can support this process by providing a framework for placing model results in context. To assess the variation between models and the process of understanding differences, estimates of GHG emissions from four farm-scale models (DairyWise, FarmAC, HolosNor and SFARMMOD) were calculated for eight dairy farming scenarios within a factorial design consisting of two climates (cool/dry and warm/wet)×two soil types (sandy and clayey)×two feeding systems (grass only and grass/maize). The milk yield per cow, follower:cow ratio, manure management system, nitrogen (N) fertilisation and land area were standardised for all scenarios in order to associate the differences in the results with the model structure and function. Potential yield and application of available N in fertiliser and manure were specified separately for grass and maize. Significant differences between models were found in GHG emissions at the farm-scale and for most contributory sources, although there was no difference in the ranking of source magnitudes. The farm-scale GHG emissions, averaged over the four models, was 10.6 t carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e)/ha per year, with a range of 1.9 t CO2e/ha per year. Even though key production characteristics were specified in the scenarios, there were still significant differences between models in the annual milk production per ha and the amounts of N fertiliser and concentrate feed imported. This was because the models differed in their description of biophysical responses and feedback mechanisms, and in the extent to which management functions were internalised. We conclude that comparing the results of different farm-scale models when applied to a range of scenarios would build confidence in their use in achieving ESR targets, justifying further investment in the development of a wider range of scenarios and software tools.

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Abstract

Impaired animal health causes both productivity and profitability losses on dairy farms, resulting in inefficient use of inputs and increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced per unit of product (i.e. emissions intensity). Here, we used subclinical mastitis as an exemplar to benchmark alternative scenarios against an economic optimum and adjusted herd structure to estimate the GHG emissions intensity associated with varying levels of disease. Five levels of somatic cell count (SCC) classes were considered namely 50,000 (i.e. SCC50), 200,000, 400,000, 600,000 and 800,000 cells/mL (milliliter) of milk. The effects of varying levels of SCC on milk yield reduction and consequential milk price penalties were used in a dynamic programming (DP) model that maximizes the profit per cow, represented as expected net present value, by choosing optimal animal replacement rates. The GHG emissions intensities associated with different levels of SCC were then computed using a farm-scale model (HolosNor). The total culling rates of both primiparous (PP) and multiparous (MP) cows for the five levels of SCC scenarios estimated by the model varied from a minimum of 30.9% to a maximum of 43.7%. The expected profit was the highest for cows with SCC200 due to declining margin over feed, which influenced the DP model to cull and replace more animals and generate higher profit under this scenario compared to SCC50. The GHG emission intensities for the PP and MP cows with SCC50 were 1.01 kg (kilogram) and 0.95 kg carbon dioxide equivalents (CO 2 e) per kg fat and protein corrected milk (FPCM), respectively, with the lowest emissions being achieved in SCC50. Our results show that there is a potential to reduce the farm GHG emissions intensity by 3.7% if the milk production was improved through reducing the level of SCC to 50,000 cells/mL in relation to SCC level 800,000 cells/mL. It was concluded that preventing and/or controlling subclinical mastitis consequently reduces the GHG emissions per unit of product on farm that results in improved profits for the farmers through reductions in milk losses, optimum culling rate and reduced feed and other variable costs. We suggest that further studies exploring the impact of a combination of diseases on emissions intensity are warranted.

Abstract

There is a scientific consensus that the future climate change will affect grass and crop dry matter (DM) yields. Such yield changes may entail alterations to farm management practices to fulfill the feed requirements and reduce the farm greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from dairy farms. While a large number of studies have focused on the impacts of projected climate change on a single farm output (e.g. GHG emissions or economic performance), several attempts have been made to combine bio-economic systems models with GHG accounting frameworks. In this study, we aimed to determine the physical impacts of future climate scenarios on grass and wheat DM yields, and demonstrate the effects such changes in future feed supply may have on farm GHG emissions and decision-making processes. For this purpose, we combined four models: BASGRA and CSM-CERESWheat models for simulating forage grass DM and wheat DM grain yields respectively; HolosNor for estimating the farm GHG emissions; and JORDMOD for calculating the impacts of changes in the climate and management on land use and farm economics. Four locations, with varying climate and soil conditions were included in the study: south-east Norway, south-west Norway, central Norway and northern Norway. Simulations were carried out for baseline (1961–1990) and future (2046–2065) climate conditions (projections based on two global climate models and the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) A1B GHG emission scenario), and for production conditions with and without a milk quota. The GHG emissions intensities (kilogram carbon dioxide equivalent: kgCO2e emissions per kg fat and protein corrected milk: FPCM) varied between 0.8 kg and 1.23 kg CO2e (kg FPCM)−1 , with the lowest and highest emissions found in central Norway and south-east Norway, respectively. Emission intensities were generally lower under future compared to baseline conditions due mainly to higher future milk yields and to some extent to higher crop yields. The median seasonal aboveground timothy grass yield varied between 11,000 kg and 16,000 kg DM ha−1 and was higher in all projected future climate conditions than in the baseline. The spring wheat grain DM yields simulated for the same weather conditions within each climate projection varied between 2200 kg and 6800 kg DM ha−1 . Similarly, the farm profitability as expressed by total national land rents varied between 1900 million Norwegian krone (NOK) for median yields under baseline climate conditions up to 3900 million NOK for median yield under future projected climate conditions.