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Feeding efficiency gains can increase the greenhouse gas mitigation potential of the Tanzanian dairy sector

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We use an attributional life cycle assessment (LCA) and simulation modelling to assess the effect of improved feeding practices and increased yields of feed crops on milk productivity and GHG emissions from the dairy sector of Tanzania’s southern highlands region. We calculated direct non-CO2 emissions from dairy production and the CO2 emissions resulting from the demand for croplands and grasslands using a land footprint indicator. Baseline GHG emissions intensities ranged between 19.8 and 27.8 and 5.8–5.9 kg CO2eq kg−1 fat and protein corrected milk for the Traditional (local cattle) and Modern (improved cattle) sectors. Land use change contributed 45.8–65.8% of the total carbon footprint of dairy. Better feeding increased milk yields by up to 60.1% and reduced emissions intensities by up to 52.4 and 38.0% for the Traditional and Modern sectors, respectively. Avoided land use change was the predominant cause of reductions in GHG emissions under all the scenarios. Reducing yield gaps of concentrate feed crops lowered emissions further by 11.4–34.9% despite increasing N2O and CO2 emissions from soils management and input use. This study demonstrates that feed intensification has potential to increase LUC emissions from dairy production, but that fertilizer-dependent yield gains can offset this increase in emissions through avoided emissions from land use change.

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