New science on the dairy water footprint

image003Dr. Andrew VanderZaag, a scientist from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and his collaborators from the University of Guelph, OMAFRA, the Livestock Research Innovation Corporation, and Wilfrid Laurier University, measured water use on farms in Ontario to calculate a water footprint for dairy production and identify practical and economical options to reduce water use for sustainability. The project was part of farmers’ investments targeting sustainable dairy farming in the Dairy Research Cluster 2 (2013-2018).

A water footprint for dairy is a new way of measuring the amount of water used per litre of milk produced. It’s used to benchmark performance in sustainability and help farmers measure the impacts of their actions to improve water conservation and preservation.

Conserving water not only helps improve farm sustainability, it benefits a dairy farm operation by:

  • Saving electricity through less pumping water and heating water for cleaning;
  • Reducing costs for treating water – depending on water quality, this can be a big factor; and,
  • Lowering fuel costs – reducing water in manure storage means less to transport from the storage to the field for application.

Water use

VanderZaag’s team measured water use in different dairy farms (tie-stall, freestall and robotic milking) in Ontario. They found that for milking system cleaning, the average daily water use was:

  • ~75 litres/day/cow [i]for an automatic milk system
  • ~30 litres/day/cow for a tie-stall parlour
  • ~21 litres/day/cow for a free-stall parlour

They also observed that:

  • Robotic milking systems use more water per cow than parlours and tie‐stall milking systems;
  • Drinking water consumption is highly correlated with the maximum air temperature – therefore minimizing heat stress to animals can reduce the water footprint of milk by reducing water demand and increasing milk production;
  • Water leaks around the farm can lead to significant water losses;
  • Water loss can be minimized at drinking fountains by preventing overflow due to faulty float control and poorly levelled tanks;
  • Reusing water can help reduce water consumption, for example, plate‐cooler water can be fully recuperated;
  • In a case study of two farms (one free-stall and one tie-stall), the water footprint was calculated as a range of 4 to 7 litres of water per litre of milk produced.

Water and nutrient losses

VanderZaag and his collaborators measured water and nutrient losses for several years at experimental sites near Ottawa using sophisticated instruments to measure water loss into the air, through tile drains, milkhouse effluent and treatment, and the timing of manure application. They used models based on the measurements to evaluate farm management scenarios for their effect on the water footprint and options to reduce it.

The researchers found that:

  • On a whole‐farm basis, over 99% of all water loss from dairy farming is from crops and pastures, with the remaining loss from cattle intake;
  • Spring application of manure reduces nitrogen leaching compared to fall application;
  • Split applications between planting and side‐dress can further increase nitrogen-efficiency if the application rate is matched to crop requirements;
  • Spring applications (before planting, or split before and after emergence) were beneficial at all nitrogen application rates;
  • Increasing alfalfa in rotation led to less polluted water and nitrate leaching, and less nitrogen-leached per unit of nitrogen‐yield, but overall yield slightly declined.

How to conserve and preserve water – NEW Fact sheets available!

Two new fact sheets produced by Dairy Farmers of Canada in consultation with Dr. VanderZaag are now available for information on efficient water use under the proAction program and help farmers in their efforts for continued sustainability improvements. You can download the fact sheets here: DairyResearch.ca.

 

“If all dairy operations in Canada reduced in-barn water consumption by 1%, about 500 million litres of water would be saved annually,” said Dr. VanderZaag.

Takeaways

  1. Plate-cooler water can be recovered and reused (watch the video of dairy farmer Robin Flewwelling explain his set up for plate-cooler water collection and reuse);image002

  2. Cleaning protocols can be optimized especially with robotic systems to conserve water;

  3. Keeping cows cool in the summer can save water – reducing heat stress is beneficial for the animals and reduces water consumption;

  4. Water loss at drinking fountains can be minimized by preventing overflow due to faulty float control and poorly levelled tanks.

[i]* Standard automatic milking system are not normally set with water conservation as a primary objective (e.g. number of wash cycles, teat prep, flushing, floor and hoof wash).

 

Gut Health: A Journey Inside

DAI05-032-Symposium2018_Email_Header_EN_(v00.01)

The following are highlights from the 2018 Symposium on Nutrition and Health brought to you by the Registered Dietitians at Dairy Farmers of Canada

Renowned experts at the 2018 Symposium shed light on several hot topics related to gut health, including:

  • how the gut microbiota affects overall health
  • when and how to apply the FODMAP* diet
  • how yogurt can benefit cardiometabolic health
  • strategies to manage lactose intolerance

*FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. FODMAPs are found naturally in a wide range of foods – fructans including fructooligosaccharides (FOS) (artichoke, garlic, onions, wheat, rye), galactooligosaccharides (GOS) (pulses), lactose (in milk), fructose in excess of glucose (pears, apples and honey), and sugar polyols (stone fruits, some vegetables and artificial sweeteners). Source: www.dairynutrition.ca

Dr. Karen Madsen presented on the gut microbiome and its role in health. Humans have coevolved with a vast array of microorganisms that profoundly influence all facets of our health and wellbeing. Dysbiosis, an altered balance of gut microbiota, is implicated in a wide range of health conditions, including: inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune diseases, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and obesity. We now know that diet clearly impacts the makeup of our gut microbiome and dietary changes can substantially alter microbial composition and metabolism.

Please read full summary or watch the webcast of this presentation here.

Dr. Jane Muir, one of the developers of the FODMAP diet, highlighted how RDs can apply this diet in practice, ensuring patients follow a 3-step approach and do not restrict important food groups. For example, the initial low FODMAP phase of the diet should only last 2-6 weeks, and this should be followed by a re-introduction phase to identify individual sensitivities and find a good balance between symptom control and expansion of the diet. It is important to re-introduce foods to improve variety, nutritional adequacy, and social inclusion and because some FODMAPs are prebiotics.1

Please read full summary or watch the webcast of this presentation here.

Dr. André Marrette outlined the evidence related to yogurt and cardiometabolic health. Strong consistent evidence from multiple meta-analyses shows an inverse association between yogurt consumption and type 2 diabetes risk.Studies also suggest that yogurt consumption is likely to contribute to the maintenance of a healthy weight.Bioactive peptides released during fermentation may explain some of the beneficial effects of yogurt consumption on cardiometabolic health via their role on the gut microbiota.

Please read full summary or watch the webcast of this presentation here.

Dr. Susan Barr presented data on the prevalence of Lactose Intolerance in Canada and strategies for its management. Lactose intolerance, whether real or perceived, is a potential health concern for many Canadians. Approximately 16-21 % of adults in Canada perceive themselves to be lactose intolerant.4,5 This can lead to the avoidance of milk products, which can in turn make it harder to meet requirements for calcium and other key nutrients (even with consumption of alternative beverages and supplements). Health authorities advise those who are lactose intolerant to not exclude milk products from their diet. Health professionals can work closely with clients to ensure dairy products are not needlessly avoided using a number of practical strategies to manage lactose intolerance.

Please read full summary or watch the webcast of this presentation here.

You can read the full summaries of the presentations or watch the webcast.

REFERENCES

  1. Tuck C and Barrett J. Re-challenging FODMAPs: the low FODMAP diet phase 2. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2017;32:11-15.
  2. Drouin-Charier JP et al. Systematic review of the association between dairy product consumption and risk of cardiovascular-related clinical outcomes. Adv Nutr2016;7:1026-1040.
  3. Fernandez MA et al.Yogurt and cardiometabolic diseases: a critical review of potential mechanisms. Adv Nutr2017;8:812-829.
  4. Barr SI. Perceived lactose intolerance in adult Canadians: a national survey. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 2013;38:830-835.
  5. Dairy Farmers of Canada Nutrition Tracking. 2018.