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Keywords:

  • Dairy cattle;
  • Multicriteria analysis;
  • Environmental impact;
  • Cost-effectiveness

Abstract

We analyze options to reduce the future environmental impact of dairy cattle production, using an optimization model (DAIRY) applied to the Czech Republic. The DAIRY model can be used to calculate the overall environmental impact (OEI). We show that aquatic eutrophication and global warming are the 2 most important problems caused by dairy cattle. These problems are largely caused by nitrate leaching and emissions from animal housing. The DAIRY model indicates that the costs of reducing the OEI in 2020 by 20% are 12 MEuro. It is most cost effective to achieve this reduction by improving the efficiency of animal manure used as fertilizer. We tested the sensitivity of the model to assumptions about the following: 1) the relative importance of environmental problems as expressed in weighting factors, and 2) future cattle numbers and milk yield per milking cow. The first case indicates that disagreement on which problem is most urgent need not lead to disagreement about policies to be undertaken. Regardless of the weighting factors used, aquatic eutrophication and global warming are the most important problems. However, the overall costs of reducing the OEI differ with alternative sets of weighting factors, because the costs of emission reduction differ among pollutants. The second case shows that the DAIRY model results are more sensitive to changes in cattle numbers than to changes in milk yield. This study is the first integrated assessment of dairy cattle production for a Central European country and illustrates how systematic analyses may help to find optimal solutions. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2010;6:367–377. © 2010 SETAC