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Milk and beef production cause 9% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Previous life cycle assessment (LCA) studies have shown that dairy intensification reduces the carbon footprint of milk by increasing animal productivity and feed conversion efficiency. None of these studies simultaneously evaluated indirect GHG effects incurred via teleconnections with expansion of feed crop production and replacement suckler-beef production. We applied consequential LCA to incorporate these effects into GHG mitigation calculations for intensification scenarios among grazing-based dairy farms in an industrialized country (UK), in which milk production shifts from average to intensive farm typologies, involving higher milk yields per cow and more maize and concentrate feed in cattle diets. Attributional LCA indicated a reduction of up to 0.10 kg CO2 e kg(-1) milk following intensification, reflecting improved feed conversion efficiency. However, consequential LCA indicated that land use change associated with increased demand for maize and concentrate feed, plus additional suckler-beef production to replace reduced dairy-beef output, significantly increased GHG emissions following intensification. International displacement of replacement suckler-beef production to the "global beef frontier" in Brazil resulted in small GHG savings for the UK GHG inventory, but contributed to a net increase in international GHG emissions equivalent to 0.63 kg CO2 e kg(-1) milk. Use of spared dairy grassland for intensive beef production can lead to net GHG mitigation by replacing extensive beef production, enabling afforestation on larger areas of lower quality grassland, or by avoiding expansion of international (Brazilian) beef production. We recommend that LCA boundaries are expanded when evaluating livestock intensification pathways, to avoid potentially misleading conclusions being drawn from "snapshot" carbon footprints. We conclude that dairy intensification in industrialized countries can lead to significant international carbon leakage, and only achieves GHG mitigation when spared dairy grassland is used to intensify beef production, freeing up larger areas for afforestation.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Global change biology
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A type of climate characterized by insufficient moisture to support appreciable plant life. It is a climate of extreme aridity, usually of extreme heat, and of negligible rainfall. (From McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms, 4th ed)
Any significant change in measures of climate (such as temperature, precipitation, or wind) lasting for an extended period (decades or longer). It may result from natural factors such as changes in the sun's intensity, natural processes within the climate system such as changes in ocean circulation, or human activities.
A climate characterized by COLD TEMPERATURE for a majority of the time during the year.
A climate which is typical of equatorial and tropical regions, i.e., one with continually high temperatures with considerable precipitation, at least during part of the year. (McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms, 4th ed)
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