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J Dairy Sci. 2010 Aug;93(8):3407-16. doi: 10.3168/jds.2009-2719.

Invited review: Contemporary environmental issues: a review of the dairy industry's role in climate change and air quality and the potential of mitigation through improved production efficiency.

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Department of Animal Science, University of California, Davis, One Shields Ave, Davis 95616-8521, USA.


Environmental concerns involving the dairy industry are shifting from an exclusive focus on water quality to encompass climate change and air quality issues. The dairy industry's climate change air emissions of concern are the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. With regard to air quality, the dairy industry's major emission contributions are particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and ammonia. The emissions of these compounds from dairies can be variable because of a number of factors including weather conditions, animal type, management, and nutrition. To evaluate and compare emissions across the diverse operations that comprise the US dairy industry, emissions should be reported per unit of output (e.g., per kg of 3.5% fat-corrected milk). Accurately modeling emissions with models that can predict the complex bio-geochemical processes responsible for emissions is critical to assess current emissions inventories and develop mitigation strategies. Improving the dairy industry's production efficiency (e.g., improvements in management, nutrition, reproduction, and cow comfort) is an effective way to reduce emissions per unit of milk. With accurate process-based models, emissions reductions due to improved production efficiency could be reported per unit of milk and predicted on a farm-to-farm basis.

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