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J Dairy Sci. 2012 Mar;95(3):1267-82. doi: 10.3168/jds.2011-4651.

A linear programming model to optimize diets in environmental policy scenarios.

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Department of Animal Science, University of California, Davis 95616, USA.


The objective was to develop a linear programming model to formulate diets for dairy cattle when environmental policies are present and to examine effects of these policies on diet formulation and dairy cattle nitrogen and mineral excretions as well as methane emissions. The model was developed as a minimum cost diet model. Two types of environmental policies were examined: a tax and a constraint on methane emissions. A tax was incorporated to simulate a greenhouse gas emissions tax policy, and prices of carbon credits in the current carbon markets were attributed to the methane production variable. Three independent runs were made, using carbon dioxide equivalent prices of $5, $17, and $250/t. A constraint was incorporated into the model to simulate the second type of environmental policy, reducing methane emissions by predetermined amounts. The linear programming formulation of this second alternative enabled the calculation of marginal costs of reducing methane emissions. Methane emission and manure production by dairy cows were calculated according to published equations, and nitrogen and mineral excretions were calculated by mass conservation laws. Results were compared with respect to the values generated by a base least-cost model. Current prices of the carbon credit market did not appear onerous enough to have a substantive incentive effect in reducing methane emissions and altering diet costs of our hypothetical dairy herd. However, when emissions of methane were assumed to be reduced by 5, 10, and 13.5% from the base model, total diet costs increased by 5, 19.1, and 48.5%, respectively. Either these increased costs would be passed onto the consumer or dairy producers would go out of business. Nitrogen and potassium excretions were increased by 16.5 and 16.7% with a 13.5% reduction in methane emissions from the base model. Imposing methane restrictions would further increase the demand for grains and other human-edible crops, which is not a progressive solution for an industry trying to be sustainable. However, these results might depend on the constraints and inputs used in our model (e.g., feed prices), and more extensive analyses are required before they are used in policy development. The model structure was able to incorporate effects of environmental policies in diet formulation and it can assist dairy producers in meeting limits set by these policies. The model can also assist policy makers examining the effects of policies on the dairy production system.

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