The Ruminant Farm Systems Model: A decision-support tool for whole farm efficiency and sustainability
Keywords:environmental footprints, , decision-support tools, greenhouse gas emissions
Sustainable dairy production requires methods to quantify the environmental footprint of dairy farms that can inform management decisions. Impact inventories can provide some insight for policy, but are not suitable to inform decisions at the farm level. Decision-support tools like the Ruminant Farm Systems (RuFaS) model represent farm management and esti-mate environmental impacts with enough detail and flexibility to compare the effect of management practices and guide farm management decisions. For example, RuFaS can be used to compare the environment impacts of reproduction protocols. The RuFaS model estimates that improving the reproductive performance of a 1,000-cow herd from a low performance to a baseline performance scenario reduces manure and enteric methane production and the emissions intensity of milk pro-duction for that herd. The expected annual enteric emissions reduction alone is equivalent to removing over 70 gas powered cars from the road for one year.