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Institute of

OF Organic Farming


Green house gas impact of Norwegian milk


Analysis of the green house impact of milk production in Norwegian dairy farms

Due to site and climate conditions milk production in North Scandinavia is special. In the Norwegian county Møre og Romsdal organic and conventional dairy farming is based on grassland. Concentrates are generally imported in the farms. Grazing is not only done on the cultivated farm area and pastures, but often also semi natural grassland and rangelands in the mountains. The Norwegian research project ENVIROMILK is addressing the sustainability of 20 organic and conventional dairy farms in this region by analysing and modelling nutrient flows, energy use, economy and climate gasses.

Background and Objective

Environmental, economical and social sustainability is a goal for agricultural policy. Rapid changes in the heterogeneous Norwegian agriculture may impede positive developments. The primary objective is to find indicators describing the challenges in terms of environmental strategies for dairy farmers in Møre og Romsdal County in Norway. The results can be used to generate strategies to improve environmental and economical sustainability on farm level.


The Thünen-Institute of Organic farming calculates the climate effects and nutrient flows with the Model FARM (Flow Analysis and Resource Management). The open model is applied and adapted together with the Norwegian project partners to fit to Norwegian conditions.

Data and Methods

Over the period of three years, 10 conventional and 10 organic farms are followed. Data of feeding, forage production, milk yields, meat production, herd structure, and management, management of plant production and economics are assessed by interviews and farm records. Using the FARM-Model the global warming potential of dairy production from cradle to farm gate is calculated for each farm using international standard emission factors and /or local emissions factors. Nutrient flows within the farm are also assessed.


With the model FARM (Flow Analysis and Resource Efficiency Model) a freely available and complete model to run material flow anlyses and life cycle balances on farm level is available (Schüler et al. 2016). The assessments show that Norwegian dairy farms  in the region under study regularily import their concentrates. N-surplusses are lower in organic farms than under conventional management (Koesling et al. 2017a). Organic dairy farms produce their feed and meat and milk with lower energy intensity than conventional farms (Koesling et al. 2017b). High variations in energy intensity  and in green house gas emissions indicate potential for improvements on the farms.

Links and Downloads

Involved external Thünen-Partners


1.2012 - 12.2016

More Information

Project status: finished


  1. 0

    Schüler M, Hansen S, Paulsen HM (2018) Discrimination of milk carbon footprints from different dairy farms when using IPCC Tier 1 methodology for calculation of GHG emissions from managed soils. J Cleaner Prod 177:899-907, DOI:10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.12.227

  2. 1

    Schüler M, Koesling M, Paulsen HM (2017) Auswirkungen der Berechnung der funktionellen Einheit in der Milchproduktion auf das Ergebnis von Ökobilanzen. In: Wolfrum S, Heuwinkel H, Reents HJ, Hülsbergen KJ (eds) Ökologischen Landbau weiterdenken - Verantwortung übernehmen, Vertrauen stärken : Beiträge zur 14. Wissenschaftstagung Ökologischer Landbau, Freising-Weihenstephan, 7. bis 10. März 2017. Berlin: Köster, pp 824-827

  3. 2

    Koesling M, Ruge G, Fystro G, Torp T, Hansen S (2015) Embodied and operational energy in buildings on 20 Norwegian dairy farms - introducing the building construction approach to agriculture. Energy Build 108:330-345, DOI:10.1016/j.enbuild.2015.09.012

  4. 3

    Paulsen HM, Warnecke S, Schüler M (2014) Modell und Realität : Erfahrungen zur Berechnung von Treibhausgasemissionen aus der Milchviehhaltung auf Basis von Daten ökologischer und konventioneller Betriebe. Forschung Themenheft 2/2014:44-49

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