Use of proteins and oilseeds to improve the sustainability of dairy cattle on the Cantabrian coast: differentiated production and quality of milk (Iparesne)

  • Financing: INIA (National Institute for Agricultural and Food Research and Technology)
  • Head researcher: Dr. Aser García
  • Duration: 2014-16

This project is based on one of the pillars of sustainable animal production, i.e. the efficient use of resources generated in the operation for the development of quality cow’s milk production systems that are sustainable and competitive in the particular agro-climatic and structural conditions of the Cantabrian coast and Galicia. Most of the cattle dairy activity in Spain is concentrated in this area, with more than 60% of the production and 80% of farms in the sector. The proposed activities seek to improve the management of fodder production, looking for viable alternatives to Italian ryegrass as winter fodder to rotate with corn and investigate the incorporation of new crops (proteins and oilseeds), whose by-products (cakes) are an alternative of interest for the substitution of soya in animal feed. The various existing production systems will be evaluated in search of those best adapted to the local or regional systems based on their soil-climate peculiarities, using production simulation models to identify agricultural strategies for the production of fodder crops and animal feed that best contribute to the economic and environmental sustainability of dairy farms. Trials on fodder crops will be complemented with feeding trials, under the premise of using our own most ingestible fodder resources with the highest possible energy value, minimising the need for external feed. In addition, the aim is to explore to what extent the consumption of pasture and own fodder allows the production of milk which is rich in functional compounds, as a differentiating element against a possible payment for quality and product image. The aim is also to reduce external nitrogen inputs into the system without affecting production, through a better use of organic waste generated in the operation itself, using these as fertilisers to promote the recycling of nutrients and energy while reducing livestock waste.

Main Objective:

To achieve competitiveness in the milk production sector linked to quality, food safety and innovation by reducing production costs, increasing profitability and improving the functional components of the milk, in search of the economic and environmental sustainability of the sector, in line with the new conditions of the CAP (2013-2020) linked to the area payment.

Secondary Objectives:

Design of animal feed that contribute to improving the sustainability of the dairy cattle on the Cantabrian coast through the reduction of feeding costs (based on the incorporation of oilseeds and proteins) and improvement in the quality of milk:
• Characterisation of alternative raw materials to soybean meal as a protein source.
• Formulation of alternative animal feed to replace soybean meal as a protein source, enabling a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, improvement in the quality of milk and/or cost reduction of the same.
• Analysis of the impact of the food strategies adopted on the sustainability of the feed system for dairy cattle in the Basque Country.