Increasing resource efficiency by optimizing crop and milk production on whole farm level under consideration of animal welfare quality aspects.
In the German network of organic and conventional pilot farms we analyse animal welfare and the use of veterinary drugs in dairying. These are important aspects of sustainability which we combine with parameters of environmental performance and resource efficiency.
Our hypotheses for research are: In dairy farms there is a strong interrelation of animal related parameters, environmental performance and sustainability of production. They impact on resource efficiency. This can be described by combining different sustainability indicators. Optimization approaches for farms can be derived.
Together with farmers and advisors we develop farm specific scenarios to improve animal health and welfare. Environmental and economic effects of those scenarios are analysed by whole farm models. E.g. we consider effects of feeding regimes, animal housing conditions or management on animal health and welfare. We also analyse the use of veterinary drugs. All of these factors determine animal performance and efficiency of production to some extent.
We conduct our research in the well-established network of German pilot farms. In 20 organic and 20 conventional dairy farms we:
1. Assess the use of veterinary drugs.
2. Analyse the monthly results of milk records with regard to udder health and metabolic health of the cows and further parameters (milk yield, age)
3. Survey animal welfare as outcome variable of farm management by using theWelfare Quality® Protocol for Cattle consecutive winter and summer.
4. Classify the pilot farms according to livestock related sustainability and identify factors influencing animal welfare and health on the farms.
5. Develop, together with farmers and advisors, scenarios to increase animal related factors of sustainability.
6. Identify synergies and tradeoffs between increasing livestock health and welfare and (a) parameters of environmental performance, (b) efficiency in production (c) resource use and (d) economic effects by modelling the development scenarios.
In the network of organic and conventional pilot farms with dairy and/or arable production in Germany (www.pilotbetriebe.de) aspects of sustainability, resource efficiency, animal health and welfare and economic aspects are analysed. This is based on on-farm assessments and on whole farm modelling. In interdisciplinary workshops on the project farms results were presented and scenarios were developed in a participatory approach by scientists, consultants and farmers to improve N, P and land use efficiency as well as dairy health and welfare. Typical areas of action to optimize sustainability in these aspects were identified on the farms, e.g., complete accounting of manure N (N balance), enrichment of crop rotations with clover grass and cover crops (humus balance), improving forage quality (productivity, nutritional imbalances), improvement of housing conditions and grazing access (animal health and welfare). Web available tools to assess important aspects of livestock-welfare (dairy cows, Tierwohltool-Milchvieh (in German)) and to analyse sustainability aspects in plant production (HUNTER: Humus, Nutrient, Greenhouse Gas and Energy Analysis Tool (in German)) were provided at the project homepage for practical use in farms and advisory service. Systematic integration and detection of interconnectedness of environmental performance of production, animal welfare, resource efficiency and productivity result in a new quality in development of farm concepts.
Actual research results on www.pilotbetriebe.de (in German, publications in English available).
8.2014 - 11.2020
Project funding number: 2812NA129
Funding program: Bundesprogramm Ökologischer Landbau und andere Formen nachhaltiger Landwirtschaft (BÖLN)
Project status: ongoing
Ein weiterer Projektteil des Verbundvorhabens setzt sich mit der ökonomischen Analyse der Ressourceneffizienz landwirtschaftlicher Betriebe auseinander und wird vom Institut für Betriebswirtschaft bearbeitet. Hier gelangen Sie zur Projektseite.