The effect of changing cow production and fitness traits on net income and greenhouse gas emissions from Australian dairy systems Academic Article uri icon


  • The aim of this study was to compare the effect of changing a range of biological traits on farm net income and greenhouse gas emissions (expressed in carbon dioxide equivalents, CO2-eq.) in the Australian dairy cow population. An average cow was modeled, using breed-average information for Holsteins and Jerseys from the Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme. A Markov chain approach was used to describe the steady-state herd structure, as well as estimate the CO2-eq. emissions per cow and per kilogram of milk solids. The effects of a single unit change in herd milk volume, fat and protein yields, live weight, survival, dry matter intake, somatic cell count, and calving interval were assessed. With the traits studied, the only single-unit change that would bring about a desirable increase in both net income and reduced emissions intensity per cow and per kilogram of milk solids in Australian dairy herds would be an increase in survival and reductions in milk volume, live weight, DMI, SCC, and calving interval. The models developed can be used to assess lifetime dairy system abatement options by breeding, feeding, and management. Selective breeding and appropriate management can both improve health, fertility, and feed utilization of Australian dairy systems and reduce its environmental impact.


publication date

  • December 2013