The carbon footprint of milk has decreased 41% in the lask sixty years.

CORNELL (US)—By improving dairy genetics, nutrition, herd management, and animal welfare, the dairy industry has reduced its carbon footprint over the past 60 years, according to a study from Cornell University.

The research, published in the June issue of the Journal of Animal Science, compares the carbon footprint for a gallon of milk in 2007 as compared to one in 1944. The overall carbon footprint for a gallon of milk has decreased 41 percent, the study says.

“As U.S. and global populations continue to increase, it is critical to adopt management practices and technologies to produce sufficient high-quality food from a finite resource supply, while minimizing effects upon the environment,” says Jude Capper, lead author and a former Cornell postdoctoral researcher working with Dale E. Bauman, Cornell Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor of Animal Science.

The study reports that the improved efficiency has enabled the U.S. dairy industry to produce 186 billion pounds of milk from 9.2 million cows in 2007, compared with only 117 billion pounds of milk from 25.6 million cows in 1944.

Efficiency also resulted in reductions in resource use and waste output. Modern dairy systems only use 10 percent of the land, 23 percent of the feedstuffs and 35 percent of the water required to produce the same amount of milk in 1944. Similarly, 2007 dairy farming produced only 24 percent of the manure and 43 percent of the methane output per gallon of milk compared to farming in 1944.

Roger A. Cady, a scientist at Elanco, joined Capper and Bauman on the paper.
The study was supported in part by funds to Bauman as a Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor and from the Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station.

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