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Studies on greenhouse gas emissions in organic and conventional dairy farms

By Antje Kassow, Gerold Rahmann, Britta Blank, Hans Marten Paulsen and Karen Aulrich


In Germany agriculture is responsible for 14 % of the whole greenhouse gas (GHG) emis-sions. A considerable portion (30 %) of the emissions is caused by dairy farming. Recent discussions about this issue show that there is a lack of solid data. The project "Climate effects and sustainability of organic and conventional farming systems - examination in a network of pilot farms" aims to attain more precise information. A total of 40 conventional and 40 organic farms in Germany are compared in this project. Half of the farm pairs are dairy systems; they are located as organic/conventional pairs in regions with equal soil and climatic conditions. The collected data includes length of life, first calving, milk yield, fodder regime, state of health of the different dairy herds and data on manure management and fodder production as well as soil and soil management data. Options to increase sustainability in the farming systems are discussed with a special view to GHG emissions. Modelling of GHG emissions and weak point analyses in production shall be undertaken with the models GAS-EM and REPRO. General differences between organic and conventional dairy farming affecting the GHG balance can be expected by different milk production per cow, different feed components and obligatory grazing in organic farms and different GHG balances in the production of fodder crops. An increase in milk yields by a general intensification of feeding might be connected with unwanted effects on the GHG balance. Also, overall effects of the use of CH4-reducing feed components are unclear. The important role of herd management on the GHG balances in dairy farming is highlighted. The accumulated project data shall serve as a basis for the development of GHG reduction potentials and for an improvement of other sustainability aspects in organic dairy farming

Topics: Dairy cattle, Air and water emissions
Publisher: Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut - Bundesforschungsinstitut für Ländliche Räume, Wald und Fischerei (vTI)
Year: 2010
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Organic Eprints

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