Milk production in Europe is facing major challenges to ensure its economic, environmental, and social sustainability. It is essential that holistic concepts are developed to ensure the future sustainability of the sector and to assist farmers and stakeholders in making knowledge-based decisions. In this study, integrated sustainability assessment by means of whole-farm modelling is presented as a valuable approach for identifying factors and mechanisms that could be used to improve the three pillars (3Ps) of sustainability in the context of an increasing awareness of economic profitability, social well-being, and environmental impacts of dairy production systems (DPS). This work aims (i) to create an evaluation framework that enables quantitative analysis of the level of integration of 3P sustainability indicators in whole-farm models and (ii) to test this method. Therefore, an evaluation framework consisting of 35 indicators distributed across the 3Ps of sustainability was used to evaluate three whole-farm models. Overall, the models integrated at least 40% of the proposed indicators. Different results were obtained for each sustainability pillar by each evaluated model. Higher scores were obtained for the environmental pillar, followed by the economic and the social pillars. In conclusion, this evaluation framework was found to be an effective tool that allows potential users to choose among whole-farm models depending on their needs. Pathways for further model development that may be used to integrate the 3P sustainability assessment of DPS in a more complete and detailed way were identified.
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