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Animal. 2013 Nov;7(11):1875-83. doi: 10.1017/S1751731113001390. Epub 2013 Jul 29.

Implications of dairy systems on enteric methane and postulated effects on total greenhouse gas emission.

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1 Department of Plant and Animal Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University, Truro, NS, Canada B2N 5E3.


The effects of feeding total mixed ration (TMR) or pasture forage from a perennial sward under a management intensive grazing (MIG) regimen on grain intake and enteric methane (EM) emission were measured using chambers. Chamber measurement of EM was compared with that of SF6 employed both within chamber and when cows grazed in the field. The impacts of the diet on farm gate greenhouse gas (GHG) emission were also postulated using the results of existing life cycle assessments. Emission of EM was measured in gas collection chambers in Spring and Fall. In Spring, pasture forage fiber quality was higher than that of the silage used in the TMR (47.5% v. 56.3% NDF; 24.3% v. 37.9% ADF). Higher forage quality from MIG subsequently resulted in 25% less grain use relative to TMR (0.24 v. 0.32 kg dry matter/kg milk) for MIG compared with TMR. The Fall forage fiber quality was still better, but the higher quality of MIG pasture was not as pronounced as that in Spring. Neither yield of fat-corrected milk (FCM) which averaged 28.3 kg/day, nor EM emission which averaged 18.9 g/kg dry matter intake (DMI) were significantly affected by diet in Spring. However, in the Fall, FCM from MIG (21.3 kg/day) was significantly lower than that from TMR (23.4 kg/day). Despite the differences in FCM yield, in terms of EM emission that averaged 21.9 g/kg DMI was not significantly different between the diets. In this study, grain requirement, but not EM, was a distinguishing feature of pasture and confinement systems. Considering the increased predicted GHG emissions arising from the production and use of grain needed to boost milk yield in confinement systems, EM intensity alone is a poor predictor of the potential impact of a dairy system on climate forcing.

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