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Environmental and animal welfare benefits of the integrated management of dairy cows - cost benefit analysis - IS0102

Pollution from dairy farming is a major problem, with the Environment Agency stating that the dairy industry is arguably the most polluting in Britain. This project is the first of a programme of projects that will develop tools and techniques to allow the UK dairy industry to reduce environmental pollution while improving animal welfare and maintaining farm profitability. Ultimately, the research programme will deliver an Integrated Management System (IMS) for dairy cows capable of substantial reductions (>10%) in methane and ammonia emissions. An Integrated Management System (IMS) is the use of feedback control methods using sensor data for animal nutrional management. IMS allow the implementation of system models based on science combined with empirical human expertise to control systems for a variety of objectives, this project represents the first use of the concept for dairy cows. The IMS will enable production, environmental impact and animal welfare to be monitored and managed simultaneously by combining state of the art technology with best practice management techniques in a package suitable for uptake by the UK dairy sector.

As phase 1 of the research programme, this project will provide a framework around which the full programme will be developed. To achieve this aim we will review available information on the subject, in conjunction with building a model to demonstrate the potential impact of IMS on the UK dairy industry.

Part 1 of the review will define the shortcomings of existing dairy production systems and summarise existing research on the potential elements of IMS designed to improve current practices. At the same time, a spreadsheet model representing UK dairying will be constructed, building on previous research conducted at Reading. This model will display vertical integration in the dairy sector with explicit cow, enterprise and national components. The model will be applied to determine the effects of components within IMS on sustainability, environmental impact and animal welfare. Therefore, we will be able to quantify such developments and identify those components with the greatest potential to transform modern dairying into a sustainable enterprise with low pollution levels and high welfare standards.

Part 2 of the review will comprise an outline cost benefit analysis and a summary of the results from the model. Hence, the project will impart direction to the wider research programme.

The deliverables from this project will be software and associated analysis to allow the prediction of the effects of real management strategies on environmental pollution and farm and sector profitability. The national results will allow DEFRA to plan research strategies to meet Kyoto commitments, a sustainable dairy sector, improved animal welfare and UK leadership in new agricultural technology.
1. To develop the design concept for an Integrated Management Systems for dairy cows based on a review of the literature relating to managing nutritional inputs to benefit production, environmental and welfare processes.
2. To develop an enterprise and sector level spreadsheet model for analysis of the environmental and economic consequences of Integrated Management Systems.
3. To use the model to quantify the potential costs and benefits of Integrated Management Systems for the UK dairy industry according to environmental impact, cow welfare and farm sustainability.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Environmental and animal welfare benefits of the integrated management of dairy cows - cost benefit analysis   (95k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2003

To: 2003

Cost: £35,351
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Silsoe Research Institute (BBSRC)
Air Pollution              
Environmental Protection              
Global Warming              
Livestock Farming