Dairies and zootechnical supply chains affect the environment, mainly for the emission of climate – altering gas and for the use of water resources. Anyway, their contribution to the emission of greenhouse gases is about 5,2% of the national total and they are still decreasing. The main emissions are due to: the CO2 of the production cycle, to the methane mainly emitted by the digestive fermentation of the ruminants and to the nitrous oxide, resulting from bedding and sewage and from nitric fertilizer used for forage and animal feed plantations.
The effect due by the enteric methane is a reversible problem, because it lasts around 10 years in the atmosphere.
Here you find some data: in 2018 the zootechnical area emitted 65% of the total emissions in the agriculture, namely this percentage is equal to the 5,2% of the national total emissions (Ispra source). Anyway, in comparison to 1970 the Italian dairies have reduced by 40% the methane emissions, that is the main greenhouse gas in the zootechnics.
Another important aspect is the biogenic origin of the methane carbon emitted by the ruminants’ fermentations (the 50% of the zootechnical emissions). Namely, this carbon is derived from the methane of plants produced by the photosynthesis and then ingested by animals through forage. It lasts in the atmosphere for around 11 years and half and then it is reabsorbed from plants in a biological cycle. So in the atmosphere the carbon cannot be collected for hundreds years by causing the global warming.
According to ISPRA the reduction of ammonia emissions of dairies in the period between 1990-2018 has been of 23,4%, so even if the zootechnical supply chains are the main responsible of this kind of emissions, the trend is greatly improving.
Another important data: the data for the water track are for milk 100-300 lt and for meat 500-1000 lt, and this is line with the manufacture of the other agricultural products.
How the research is important
Without research and innovation there will be no improvement. And the animals science area has no exception. “The division, since many years, has been operative in developing more efficient strategies in order to grant less effect from dairies on the climate changes. In particular, the main lines of research focus on a selection for animals who are more flexible to different environments, by keeping in mind the climate changes. The research concentrates also on livestock systems and feed systems that include a better integration between the livestock activities and the agricultural context, the environment and a minor competition between the human being and the animals in order to use the primary resources” This is what we can read in a study of Giuseppe Pulina et al., full professor in Special Zootechnics at the Department of Agriculture at the University of Sassari and President of the Association Sustainables Meats.
For this reason, the technological research is the showpiece of Puli-sistem, an Italian company who since more than 30 years is the global leader in designing systems used to make the pre-milking step more consistent, to the advantage of the cows’ wellbeing and of the quality milk.