With global emissions estimated at 7.1 Gt CO2 eq per annum, livestock represents 14.5% of all human-induced emissions and it is considered to be the largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the agricultural sector. However, livestock can contribute to convert nutrients from plant biomass into animal-sourced foods, which are rich in essential macro and micronutrients in the form of milk and meat, thereby utilizing resources that cannot otherwise be consumed by humans. Livestock also contributes to global food security and poverty reduction, providing regular income to producers. To achieve a sustainable supply of animal origin food, farmers need, therefore, to identify strategies, in terms of livestock management and feeding, forage systems and feed growing practices, that make the best use of available resources and minimize the potential environmental impact. The studies of the PhD thesis were mainly developed inside the Life project “Forage4Climate”, a four years project, aimed at demonstrating that forage systems connected to milk production can promote climate change mitigation. The aim of the PhD thesis was the evaluation of GHG emission, related to dairy cattle milk production. Specific aims were: • to identify and evaluate the most common forage systems adopted in dairy cow farms in the Po plain, selecting the systems that can improve milk production and soil carbon (C) sequestration reducing emissions per kg of milk; • to evaluate commercial diets related to these different forage systems, in order to directly assess their digestibility, milk and methane (CH4) production; • to identify, through a survey analysis, the main ingredients used in the total mixed ration (TMR) of high producing lactating cows, in order to assess the best diet composition that can lead to high feed efficiency (FE) and low global warming potential (GWP) at commercial farms scale; • in a future perspective of circular economy, to study the exploitation of different inedible human by-products as growing substrates for Hermetia Illucens larvae, in order to substitute soybean meal (SBM) in the livestock diets with insect proteins. A total of 46 dairy cattle farms in Lombardy, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna were visited, in order to map the main forage systems adopted in each area and to characterize them for GHG emission related to milk production (FPCM, fat and protein corrected milk), and soil organic C stock. The evaluation of environmental impact, in terms of GWP, related to the different forage systems was carried out though a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) method, using the Software SIMAPRO. Six forage systems based on different forages were identified. The main results in terms of GHG per unit milk were: - CONV - Conventional corn silage system: 1.37 kg CO2 eq/kg FPCM (SD 0.26) - HQFS - High quality forage system: 1.18 kg CO2 eq/kg FPCM (SD 0.13) - WICE - Winter cereal silage system: 1.44 kg CO2 eq/kg FPCM (SD 0.43) - MIXED - Mixed less intensive system: 1.36 kg CO2 eq/kg FPCM (SD 0.26) - PR FRESH- Hay and fresh forage system for Parmigiano Reggiano PDO cheese production: 1.51 kg CO2 eq/kg FPCM (SD 0.23) - PR DRY- Hay system for Parmigiano Reggiano PDO cheese production: 1.36 kg CO2 eq/kg FPCM (SD 0.19). The HQFS system registered the lowest value for GWP, mainly due to the higher milk production per cow (daily FPCM/head). More intensive systems, such as HQFS, confirmed that milk production per cow is negatively related to the impact per kilogram of product, as highlighted also by a PROC GLM analysis. The HQFS system also resulted to be more sustainable, in terms of feed self-sufficiency, as it provided a high amount of dry matter (DM) per hectare, consisting of high digestible forages. Despite the lowest value for GWP, the forage system identified as HQFS showed the lowest organic C soil density: 5.6 kg/m2 (SD 1.1). On the contrary, PR FRESH showed the highest value in terms of organic C density in the soil: 9.7 kg/m2 (SD 2.2), compared with an average of 6.7 kg/m2 (SD 0.88) for the other systems. Further investigations are needed to consider environmental sustainability over a wider spectrum. Enteric CH4 was the main contributor to GWP for all forage systems: on average 45.6% (SD 3.89). For this reason, an in vivo evaluation of CH4 and milk production of lactating dairy cows fed four different diets, obtained from the forage systems identified, was performed. Also digestibility of the diets, energy and nitrogen (N) balance were assessed. Four pairs of Italian Friesian lactating cows were used in a repeated Latin Square design, using individual open circuit respiration chambers to determine dry matter intake (DMI), milk production and CH4 emission and to allow total faeces and urine collection for the determination of N and energy balances. Four diets, based on the following main forages, were tested: corn silage (49.3% DM; CS), alfalfa silage (26.8% DM; AS), wheat silage (20.0% DM; WS), hay-based diet (25.3% DM of both alfalfa and Italian ryegrass hays; PR) typical of the area of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese production. Feeding cows with PR diet significantly increased DMI (23.4 kg/d; P=0.006), compared with the others (on average, 20.7 kg/d), while this diet resulted to be the least digestible (e.g. DM digestibility=64.9 vs 71.7% of the other diets, on average). This is probably the reason why, despite higher DMI of cows fed PR diet, the animals did not show higher production, both in terms of milk (kg/d) and energy corrected milk (ECM; kg/d), compared with the other treatments. The urea N concentration was higher in milk of cows fed WS diet (13.8) and lower for cows fed AS diet (9.24). This was also correlated to the highest urinary N excretion (g/d) for cows fed WS diet (189.5 vs 147.0 on average for the other diets). The protein digestibility was higher for cows fed CS and WS diets (on average 68.5%) than for cows fed AS and PR (on average 57.0%); the dietary soybean inclusion was higher for CS and WS than AS and PR. The higher values for aNDFom digestibility were obtained for CS (50.7%) and AS (47.4%) diets. The rumen fermentation pattern was affected by diet; in particular PR diet, characterized by a lower content of NFC and a higher content of aNDFom as compared to CS diet, determined a higher rumen pH and decreased propionate production as compared to CS. Feeding cows with PR diet increased the acetate:propionate ratio in comparison with CS (3.30 vs 2.44 for PR and CS, respectively). Ruminal environment characteristics (i.e higher pH and higher acetate: propionate ratio), together with increased DMI, led cows fed PR DRY diet to have greater (P=0.046) daily production of CH4 (413.4 g/d), compared to those fed CONV diet (378.2 g/d). However, no differences were observed when CH4 was expressed as g/kg DMI or g/kg milk. Hay based diet (PR) was characterized by the lowest digestible and metabolizable energy contents which overall determined a lower NEL content for PR than CS diet (1.36 vs 1.70 Mcal/kg DM respectively for PR and CS diets). In order to meet the high demand of nutrients needed to assure high milk production, in addition to fodder a lot of concentrates are also used in dairy cows’ TMR. A survey analysis conducted in commercial farms was performed to evaluate the GWP of different lactating cow TMR and to identify the best dietary strategies to increase the FE and to reduce the enteric CH4 emission. A total of 171 dairy herds were selected: data about DMI, lactating cows TMR composition, milk production and composition were provided by farmers. Diet GWP (kg CO2 eq) was calculated as sum of GWP of each ingredient considering inputs needed at field level, feed processing and transport. For SBM, land use change was included in the assessment. Enteric CH4 production (g/d) was estimated using the equation of Hristov et al. (2013) in order to calculate CH4 emission for kg of FPCM. The dataset was analysed by GLM and logistic analysis using SAS 9.4. The results of frequency distribution showed that there was a wide variation among farms for the GWP of TMR: approximately 25% of the surveyed farms showed a diet GWP of 15 kg CO2 eq, 20% of 13 kg CO2 eq and 16.7% of 17 kg CO2 eq. The variation among farms is due to the feed used. Among feed, SBM had the highest correlation with the GWP of the TMR with the following equation: TMR GWP (kg CO2 eq) = 2.49*kg SBM + 6.9 (r2=0.547). Moreover, an inclusion of SBM >15% of diet DM did not result in higher milk production with respect to a lower inclusion (≤15%). Average daily milk production of cows was 29.8 (SD 4.83) kg with a fat and protein content (%) of 3.86 (SD 0.22) and 3.40 (SD 0.14), respectively. The average value of DMI (kg/d) of lactating cows was 22.3 (SD 2.23). The logistic analysis demonstrated that a level of corn silage ≤ 30% on diet DM was associated with higher FE. Almost 50% percent of the farms had an average value of 15.0 g CH4/kg FPCM and about 30% a value of 12.5 g CH4/kg FPCM. The results demonstrated that a lower enteric CH4 production was related to inclusion (% on diet DM) of less than 12% of alfalfa hay and more than 30% of corn silage. Diets with more than 34% of NDF determined higher CH4 production (≥14.0 g/kg FPCM) compared with diets with lower NDF content. On the contrary, a lower enteric CH4 production (<14.0 g/kg FPCM) was related to diets characterized by more than 1.61 NEl (Mcal/kg) and more than 4% of ether extract. The variability in the GWP of TMR shows a significant potential to reduce both the GWP of the diet through a correct choice and inclusion level in the ration of the ingredients (mainly SBM) and the possibility to decrease CH4 enteric emission associated to milk production. Looking forward, in order to evaluate the opportunity of alternative protein sources in the cow diet, to reduce SBM, waste production, and competition between animals and human for crops, a study on the effects of different by-products for Hermetia illucens rearing on the chemical composition of larvae and their environmental impact was conducted, even if, according to the European legislation, today the use of insects as feed source is not possible in ruminants. Regarding climate change, okara and brewer’s grains were the most promising substrates: 0.197 and 0.228 kg CO2 eq/kg of larvae fresh weight, respectively. Results from these studies show the importance of adopting a holistic approach for the assessment of GHG emission from milk production. Therefore, any strategy aimed at mitigating CH4 emission of dairy cows must also take into account the possible effect on the other GHGs, as well as the effect on C sequestration. Based on the studies, it could also be worth evaluating novel feed as a new and useful solution for mitigation of GHG emission related to milk production. The thesis highlights essential differences among forage systems and among feed ingredients of cow ration, confirming that there is room for improvement in sustainability of milk production. These issues should be taken into consideration by farmers, technicians and policy makers, considering that sustainability of livestock production will be one of the priorities for humankind in next future.

GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS RELATED TO MILK PRODUCTION OF DAIRY COWS / G. Gislon ; tutor: A Sandrucci ; coordinatore: D Bassi. - : . DIPARTIMENTO DI SCIENZE AGRARIE E AMBIENTALI - PRODUZIONE, TERRITORIO, AGROENERGIA, 2020 Feb 04. ((32. ciclo, Anno Accademico 2019. [10.13130/gislon-giulia_phd2020-02-04].

GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS RELATED TO MILK PRODUCTION OF DAIRY COWS

G. Gislon
2020

Abstract

With global emissions estimated at 7.1 Gt CO2 eq per annum, livestock represents 14.5% of all human-induced emissions and it is considered to be the largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the agricultural sector. However, livestock can contribute to convert nutrients from plant biomass into animal-sourced foods, which are rich in essential macro and micronutrients in the form of milk and meat, thereby utilizing resources that cannot otherwise be consumed by humans. Livestock also contributes to global food security and poverty reduction, providing regular income to producers. To achieve a sustainable supply of animal origin food, farmers need, therefore, to identify strategies, in terms of livestock management and feeding, forage systems and feed growing practices, that make the best use of available resources and minimize the potential environmental impact. The studies of the PhD thesis were mainly developed inside the Life project “Forage4Climate”, a four years project, aimed at demonstrating that forage systems connected to milk production can promote climate change mitigation. The aim of the PhD thesis was the evaluation of GHG emission, related to dairy cattle milk production. Specific aims were: • to identify and evaluate the most common forage systems adopted in dairy cow farms in the Po plain, selecting the systems that can improve milk production and soil carbon (C) sequestration reducing emissions per kg of milk; • to evaluate commercial diets related to these different forage systems, in order to directly assess their digestibility, milk and methane (CH4) production; • to identify, through a survey analysis, the main ingredients used in the total mixed ration (TMR) of high producing lactating cows, in order to assess the best diet composition that can lead to high feed efficiency (FE) and low global warming potential (GWP) at commercial farms scale; • in a future perspective of circular economy, to study the exploitation of different inedible human by-products as growing substrates for Hermetia Illucens larvae, in order to substitute soybean meal (SBM) in the livestock diets with insect proteins. A total of 46 dairy cattle farms in Lombardy, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna were visited, in order to map the main forage systems adopted in each area and to characterize them for GHG emission related to milk production (FPCM, fat and protein corrected milk), and soil organic C stock. The evaluation of environmental impact, in terms of GWP, related to the different forage systems was carried out though a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) method, using the Software SIMAPRO. Six forage systems based on different forages were identified. The main results in terms of GHG per unit milk were: - CONV - Conventional corn silage system: 1.37 kg CO2 eq/kg FPCM (SD 0.26) - HQFS - High quality forage system: 1.18 kg CO2 eq/kg FPCM (SD 0.13) - WICE - Winter cereal silage system: 1.44 kg CO2 eq/kg FPCM (SD 0.43) - MIXED - Mixed less intensive system: 1.36 kg CO2 eq/kg FPCM (SD 0.26) - PR FRESH- Hay and fresh forage system for Parmigiano Reggiano PDO cheese production: 1.51 kg CO2 eq/kg FPCM (SD 0.23) - PR DRY- Hay system for Parmigiano Reggiano PDO cheese production: 1.36 kg CO2 eq/kg FPCM (SD 0.19). The HQFS system registered the lowest value for GWP, mainly due to the higher milk production per cow (daily FPCM/head). More intensive systems, such as HQFS, confirmed that milk production per cow is negatively related to the impact per kilogram of product, as highlighted also by a PROC GLM analysis. The HQFS system also resulted to be more sustainable, in terms of feed self-sufficiency, as it provided a high amount of dry matter (DM) per hectare, consisting of high digestible forages. Despite the lowest value for GWP, the forage system identified as HQFS showed the lowest organic C soil density: 5.6 kg/m2 (SD 1.1). On the contrary, PR FRESH showed the highest value in terms of organic C density in the soil: 9.7 kg/m2 (SD 2.2), compared with an average of 6.7 kg/m2 (SD 0.88) for the other systems. Further investigations are needed to consider environmental sustainability over a wider spectrum. Enteric CH4 was the main contributor to GWP for all forage systems: on average 45.6% (SD 3.89). For this reason, an in vivo evaluation of CH4 and milk production of lactating dairy cows fed four different diets, obtained from the forage systems identified, was performed. Also digestibility of the diets, energy and nitrogen (N) balance were assessed. Four pairs of Italian Friesian lactating cows were used in a repeated Latin Square design, using individual open circuit respiration chambers to determine dry matter intake (DMI), milk production and CH4 emission and to allow total faeces and urine collection for the determination of N and energy balances. Four diets, based on the following main forages, were tested: corn silage (49.3% DM; CS), alfalfa silage (26.8% DM; AS), wheat silage (20.0% DM; WS), hay-based diet (25.3% DM of both alfalfa and Italian ryegrass hays; PR) typical of the area of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese production. Feeding cows with PR diet significantly increased DMI (23.4 kg/d; P=0.006), compared with the others (on average, 20.7 kg/d), while this diet resulted to be the least digestible (e.g. DM digestibility=64.9 vs 71.7% of the other diets, on average). This is probably the reason why, despite higher DMI of cows fed PR diet, the animals did not show higher production, both in terms of milk (kg/d) and energy corrected milk (ECM; kg/d), compared with the other treatments. The urea N concentration was higher in milk of cows fed WS diet (13.8) and lower for cows fed AS diet (9.24). This was also correlated to the highest urinary N excretion (g/d) for cows fed WS diet (189.5 vs 147.0 on average for the other diets). The protein digestibility was higher for cows fed CS and WS diets (on average 68.5%) than for cows fed AS and PR (on average 57.0%); the dietary soybean inclusion was higher for CS and WS than AS and PR. The higher values for aNDFom digestibility were obtained for CS (50.7%) and AS (47.4%) diets. The rumen fermentation pattern was affected by diet; in particular PR diet, characterized by a lower content of NFC and a higher content of aNDFom as compared to CS diet, determined a higher rumen pH and decreased propionate production as compared to CS. Feeding cows with PR diet increased the acetate:propionate ratio in comparison with CS (3.30 vs 2.44 for PR and CS, respectively). Ruminal environment characteristics (i.e higher pH and higher acetate: propionate ratio), together with increased DMI, led cows fed PR DRY diet to have greater (P=0.046) daily production of CH4 (413.4 g/d), compared to those fed CONV diet (378.2 g/d). However, no differences were observed when CH4 was expressed as g/kg DMI or g/kg milk. Hay based diet (PR) was characterized by the lowest digestible and metabolizable energy contents which overall determined a lower NEL content for PR than CS diet (1.36 vs 1.70 Mcal/kg DM respectively for PR and CS diets). In order to meet the high demand of nutrients needed to assure high milk production, in addition to fodder a lot of concentrates are also used in dairy cows’ TMR. A survey analysis conducted in commercial farms was performed to evaluate the GWP of different lactating cow TMR and to identify the best dietary strategies to increase the FE and to reduce the enteric CH4 emission. A total of 171 dairy herds were selected: data about DMI, lactating cows TMR composition, milk production and composition were provided by farmers. Diet GWP (kg CO2 eq) was calculated as sum of GWP of each ingredient considering inputs needed at field level, feed processing and transport. For SBM, land use change was included in the assessment. Enteric CH4 production (g/d) was estimated using the equation of Hristov et al. (2013) in order to calculate CH4 emission for kg of FPCM. The dataset was analysed by GLM and logistic analysis using SAS 9.4. The results of frequency distribution showed that there was a wide variation among farms for the GWP of TMR: approximately 25% of the surveyed farms showed a diet GWP of 15 kg CO2 eq, 20% of 13 kg CO2 eq and 16.7% of 17 kg CO2 eq. The variation among farms is due to the feed used. Among feed, SBM had the highest correlation with the GWP of the TMR with the following equation: TMR GWP (kg CO2 eq) = 2.49*kg SBM + 6.9 (r2=0.547). Moreover, an inclusion of SBM >15% of diet DM did not result in higher milk production with respect to a lower inclusion (≤15%). Average daily milk production of cows was 29.8 (SD 4.83) kg with a fat and protein content (%) of 3.86 (SD 0.22) and 3.40 (SD 0.14), respectively. The average value of DMI (kg/d) of lactating cows was 22.3 (SD 2.23). The logistic analysis demonstrated that a level of corn silage ≤ 30% on diet DM was associated with higher FE. Almost 50% percent of the farms had an average value of 15.0 g CH4/kg FPCM and about 30% a value of 12.5 g CH4/kg FPCM. The results demonstrated that a lower enteric CH4 production was related to inclusion (% on diet DM) of less than 12% of alfalfa hay and more than 30% of corn silage. Diets with more than 34% of NDF determined higher CH4 production (≥14.0 g/kg FPCM) compared with diets with lower NDF content. On the contrary, a lower enteric CH4 production (<14.0 g/kg FPCM) was related to diets characterized by more than 1.61 NEl (Mcal/kg) and more than 4% of ether extract. The variability in the GWP of TMR shows a significant potential to reduce both the GWP of the diet through a correct choice and inclusion level in the ration of the ingredients (mainly SBM) and the possibility to decrease CH4 enteric emission associated to milk production. Looking forward, in order to evaluate the opportunity of alternative protein sources in the cow diet, to reduce SBM, waste production, and competition between animals and human for crops, a study on the effects of different by-products for Hermetia illucens rearing on the chemical composition of larvae and their environmental impact was conducted, even if, according to the European legislation, today the use of insects as feed source is not possible in ruminants. Regarding climate change, okara and brewer’s grains were the most promising substrates: 0.197 and 0.228 kg CO2 eq/kg of larvae fresh weight, respectively. Results from these studies show the importance of adopting a holistic approach for the assessment of GHG emission from milk production. Therefore, any strategy aimed at mitigating CH4 emission of dairy cows must also take into account the possible effect on the other GHGs, as well as the effect on C sequestration. Based on the studies, it could also be worth evaluating novel feed as a new and useful solution for mitigation of GHG emission related to milk production. The thesis highlights essential differences among forage systems and among feed ingredients of cow ration, confirming that there is room for improvement in sustainability of milk production. These issues should be taken into consideration by farmers, technicians and policy makers, considering that sustainability of livestock production will be one of the priorities for humankind in next future.
SANDRUCCI, ANNA ALFEA
BASSI, DANIELE
milk production of dairy cows; greenhouse gases; life cycle assessment; enteric methane emission; forage systems; diet composition
Settore AGR/19 - Zootecnica Speciale
GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS RELATED TO MILK PRODUCTION OF DAIRY COWS / G. Gislon ; tutor: A Sandrucci ; coordinatore: D Bassi. - : . DIPARTIMENTO DI SCIENZE AGRARIE E AMBIENTALI - PRODUZIONE, TERRITORIO, AGROENERGIA, 2020 Feb 04. ((32. ciclo, Anno Accademico 2019. [10.13130/gislon-giulia_phd2020-02-04].
Doctoral Thesis
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