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The impact of various parameters on the carbon footprint of milk production in New Zealand and Sweden


  • Flysjö, Anna
  • Henriksson, Maria
  • Cederberg, Christel
  • Ledgard, Stewart
  • Englund, Jan-Eric


The carbon footprint (CF) of milk production was analysed at the farm gate for two contrasting production systems; an outdoor pasture grazing system in New Zealand (NZ) and a mainly indoor housing system with pronounced use of concentrate feed in Sweden (SE). The method used is based on the conceptual framework of lifecycle assessment (LCA), but only for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. National average data were used to model the dairy system in each country. Collection of inventory data and calculations of emissions were harmonised to the greatest extent possible for the two systems. The calculated CF for 1Â kg of energy corrected milk (ECM), including related by-products (surplus calves and culled cows), was 1.00Â kg carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) for NZ and 1.16Â kg CO2e for SE. Methane from enteric fermentation and nitrous oxide emissions from application of nitrogen (as fertiliser and as excreta dropped directly on the field) were the main contributors to the CF in both countries. The most important parameters to consider when calculating the GHG emissions were dry matter intake (DMI), emission factor (EF) for methane from enteric fermentation, amount of nitrogen applied and EF for direct nitrous oxide emissions from soils. By changing one parameter at a time within 'reasonable' limits (i.e. no extreme values assumed), the impact on the total CF was assessed and showed changes of up to 15%. In addition, the uncertainty in CF estimates due to uncertainty in EF for methane from enteric fermentation and nitrous oxide emissions (from soil and due to ammonia volatilisation) were analysed through Monte Carlo simulation. This resulted in an uncertainty distribution corresponding to 0.60-1.52Â kg CO2e kg-1 ECM for NZ and 0.83-1.56Â kg CO2e kg-1 ECM for SE (in the prediction interval 2.5-97.5%). Hence, the variation within the systems based on the main EF is relatively large compared with the difference in CF between the countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Flysjö, Anna & Henriksson, Maria & Cederberg, Christel & Ledgard, Stewart & Englund, Jan-Eric, 2011. "The impact of various parameters on the carbon footprint of milk production in New Zealand and Sweden," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 104(6), pages 459-469, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:agisys:v:104:y:2011:i:6:p:459-469

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Basset-Mens, Claudine & Ledgard, Stewart & Boyes, Mark, 2009. "Eco-efficiency of intensification scenarios for milk production in New Zealand," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(6), pages 1615-1625, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jones, A.K. & Jones, D.L. & Cross, P., 2014. "The carbon footprint of lamb: Sources of variation and opportunities for mitigation," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 97-107.
    2. repec:eee:agisys:v:156:y:2017:i:c:p:105-114 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Nijdam, Durk & Rood, Trudy & Westhoek, Henk, 2012. "The price of protein: Review of land use and carbon footprints from life cycle assessments of animal food products and their substitutes," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(6), pages 760-770.
    4. Guyader, Jessie & Little, Shannan & Kröbel, Roland & Benchaar, Chaouki & Beauchemin, Karen A., 2017. "Comparison of greenhouse gas emissions from corn- and barley-based dairy production systems in Eastern Canada," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 152(C), pages 38-46.
    5. O'Brien, D. & Bohan, A. & McHugh, N. & Shalloo, L., 2016. "A life cycle assessment of the effect of intensification on the environmental impacts and resource use of grass-based sheep farming," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 148(C), pages 95-104.
    6. repec:eee:agisys:v:157:y:2017:i:c:p:22-38 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Belflower, Jeff B. & Bernard, John K. & Gattie, David K. & Hancock, Dennis W. & Risse, Lawrence M. & Alan Rotz, C., 2012. "A case study of the potential environmental impacts of different dairy production systems in Georgia," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 84-93.
    8. repec:eee:agisys:v:166:y:2018:i:c:p:1-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Van Middelaar, C.E. & Berentsen, P.B.M. & Dijkstra, J. & De Boer, I.J.M., 2013. "Evaluation of a feeding strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farming: The level of analysis matters," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 9-22.


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