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Feeding cattle sustainably – here is some help

A new report lists sustainability values for a wide range of feedstuffs for cattle.

[Translate to English:] Med en ny fodermiddeltabel er det muligt at vælge fodermidler til kvæg på grundlag af bæredygtigheden. Foto: Jesper Rais

Steak or salad? Choosing what to put in your mouth makes a difference if you want to eat sustainably. The same goes for cattle. Whether to feed them with maize or molasses, barley or beets makes a difference when farmers consider how to feed their animals most sustainably.

A new report published by DCA – Danish Centre for Food and Agriculture at Aarhus University makes it easier for farmers and advisers to figure out which feedstuffs are most sustainable. The report includes a feedstuff table that shows calculated values for selected sustainability parameters for the most commonly used feed ingredients in Danish cattle production. 

The parameters selected to express the sustainability of a feedstuff are carbon footprint, land use, effect on biodiversity, fossil energy use, and potential eutrophication.    

- The aim is to provide farmers and advisors with a tool to compose a feed ration that is economically optimal, fulfils nutritional recommendations and where production of the feed has had as little as possible an impact on the climate, environment and biodiversity, say the authors of the report.

The feed table includes homegrown roughage and other feedstuffs produced in Denmark, purchased feed and by-products, and concentrates, and ranges from rye, rapeseed and soya to maize, molasses and grass – a total of 35 different feedstuffs.

In order to prepare such a feedstuff table, the feedstuffs need to have their values for sustainability calculated. This can be done with the aid of life cycle assessments. The report describes the methods used and the production data that lie behind the calculations. 

The project was supported by the Milk Levy Fund and the Cattle Levy Fund. 

You can read the report (in Danish) ”Bæredygtighedsparametre for konventionelle fodermidler til kvæg – metode og tabelværdier”, DCA report no. 116, March 2018 here

For more information please contact: Associate professor Lisbeth Mogensen, Department of Agroecology, email: lisbeth.mogensen@agro.au.dk, telephone: +45 8715 8025