PhD project by Pim Mostert. Most diseases of dairy cows occur during the transition period. Diseases result in production losses and, consequently, have an impact on the environmental and economic performance of a farm. So far, however, the exact impact of transition diseases on economic but especially environmental performance is unknown. Knowledge about the environmental and economic impacts of transition diseases in dairy farming, and potential improvement options, contributes to sustainable production of animal-source food, such as milk.
This study focuses on the impact of transition diseases on the environmental and economic performance of dairy farming. In the transition period, 60 days pre- and 30 days post calving, the majority of diseases of dairy cows occur. Diseases result in a reduced feed intake, reduced milk production, and could have an impact on reproduction and early lactation removal of dairy cows. This could have an impact on the environmental and economic performance of dairy farming. In order to gain insight into the environmental and economic costs of transition diseases and to explore options for improvement, a model will be developed that enables quantification of environmental and economic costs of transition diseases in dairy farming.
Environmental consequences will be estimated based on a life cycle assessment, whereas economic consequences will be estimated based on partial budget analysis. As the transition period is complex, both from a physiological and a farm management perspective, we start to determine the key factors (i.e. map of most important factors and their relations). Furthermore, the impact of transition diseases on the environmental (e.g. type of pollutants and resources used) and economic (e.g. production parameters) performance of dairy farming will be analysed. Finally, the environmental and economic models will be quantified and different scenarios will be simulated.