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The Ruminant Farm Systems Animal Module: A Biophysical Description of Animal Management

Department of Animal Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA
Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA
Department of Animal Science, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA
Sustainability Research, Innovation Center for US Dairy, Rosemont, IL 60018, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Liliana Fadul-Pacheco and Mélissa Duplessis
Animals 2021, 11(5), 1373;
Received: 1 April 2021 / Revised: 7 May 2021 / Accepted: 8 May 2021 / Published: 12 May 2021
(This article belongs to the Collection Smart Farming in Dairy Production)
Consumers are increasingly concerned about the sustainable production of food, leading producers and scientists to evaluate farming practices that preserve environmental resources, provide adequate production, and are economically viable. However, there are challenges to synthesize these results and apply them on-farm in a holistic nature. Simulation modeling of farm systems, such as the dairy system, can allow producers, industry members, and policy makers to prioritize interventions that improve sustainable outcomes. We introduce the Animal Module of the Ruminant Farm Systems (RuFaS) model—a whole farm dairy system model—and describe its use to assess the environmental impact of improved feed efficiency in dairy cows. By decreasing the amount of feed intake required to produce the same amount of milk, the RuFaS model provides estimates of the reduction in feed use, enteric methane, and manure production.
Dairy production is an important source of nutrients in the global food supply, but environmental impacts are increasingly a concern of consumers, scientists, and policy-makers. Many decisions must be integrated to support sustainable production—which can be achieved using a simulation model. We provide an example of the Ruminant Farm Systems (RuFaS) model to assess changes in the dairy system related to altered animal feed efficiency. RuFaS is a whole-system farm simulation model that simulates the individual animal life cycle, production, and environmental impacts. We added a stochastic animal-level parameter to represent individual animal feed efficiency as a result of reduced residual feed intake and compared High (intake = 94% of expected) and Very High (intake = 88% of expected) efficiency levels with a Baseline scenario (intake = 100% of expected). As expected, the simulated total feed intake was reduced by 6 and 12% for the High and Very High efficiency scenarios, and the expected impact of these improved efficiencies on the greenhouse gas emissions from enteric methane and manure storage was a decrease of 4.6 and 9.3%, respectively. View Full-Text
Keywords: dairy management; Monte Carlo simulation; RuFaS dairy management; Monte Carlo simulation; RuFaS
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MDPI and ACS Style

Hansen, T.L.; Li, M.; Li, J.; Vankerhove, C.J.; Sotirova, M.A.; Tricarico, J.M.; Cabrera, V.E.; Kebreab, E.; Reed, K.F. The Ruminant Farm Systems Animal Module: A Biophysical Description of Animal Management. Animals 2021, 11, 1373.

AMA Style

Hansen TL, Li M, Li J, Vankerhove CJ, Sotirova MA, Tricarico JM, Cabrera VE, Kebreab E, Reed KF. The Ruminant Farm Systems Animal Module: A Biophysical Description of Animal Management. Animals. 2021; 11(5):1373.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Hansen, Tayler L., Manfei Li, Jinghui Li, Chris J. Vankerhove, Militsa A. Sotirova, Juan M. Tricarico, Victor E. Cabrera, Ermias Kebreab, and Kristan F. Reed. 2021. "The Ruminant Farm Systems Animal Module: A Biophysical Description of Animal Management" Animals 11, no. 5: 1373.

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