Assessment of Water Use in Livestock Production Systems and Supply Chains

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Water, Agriculture and Aquaculture".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 November 2024 | Viewed by 8598

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy (ATB), Max-Eyth-Allee 100, 14469 Potsdam, Germany
Interests: water demand in agriculture; productivity of water use in agriculture; farming measures; hydrological processes; water footprint assessment of meat and dairy products; reliable models to estimate water-related indicators; communication networks for remote water management
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Guest Editor
Agro-Environmental Research Centre, Institute of Environmental Sciences, Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Herman O. u. 15, H-1022 Budapest, Hungary
Interests: environmental and food safety; organic microcontaminants (pesticide residues and mycotoxins); environmental analysis; agricultural ecotoxicology; genetic safety
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Globally, agriculture and livestock production demand 72% of all water withdrawn. By 2050, the FAO estimates that agriculture will need to produce almost 50 percent more food, feed and biofuel than in 2012 to meet the global demand from a growing population that is projected to reach more than 9 billion by the mid-century and may peak at more than 11 billion by the end of the century. The path to reducing water stress worldwide passes through sustainable agricultural production systems, including livestock production systems and supply chains. Farmers, water managers and policy makers are increasingly seeking sound knowledge and tools to improve the water-related productivity and environmental performance of agricultural production. Increasing importance is placed on widely recognized frameworks and guidelines to assess and help improve water use in livestock production systems and supply chains.

A toolkit of the utmost importance for assessing water use in livestock is provided by the “Guidelines for the evaluation of water use of livestock production systems and supply chains” (FAO, 2019), developed by the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for water use of the LEAP (Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance) Partnership of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Since the publication of the guidelines, numerous studies have been carried out to present, apply and validate them for diverse livestock production systems and supply chains. However, a robust assessment of water use in livestock production systems is a developing science in terms of its methods and tools used, scope and scale of the analysis conducted, and uncertainties in different sources of relevant data available.

This Special Issue, focused on water use in livestock production systems, aims to advance and harmonise the assessment of water use in livestock production systems and supply chains worldwide. It will collect selected contributions from the OECD (Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development) CRP (Co-operative Research Programme: Sustainable Agricultural and Food Systems) sponsored international experts workshop focused on "Water use assessment of livestock production systems and supply chains", held in Potsdam, Germany, on 14–16 December 2022, as well as spontaneous submissions from experts working in the subject reporting recent developments in water use efficiency and assessment in livestock production, including case studies, comparative assessment, and method validation reports. Thus, diverse aspects can be described, hopefully covering a wide range of application, including (but not limited to):

  • perspectives on the productivity and sustainability of livestock water use,
  • review of different livestock water use assessment methodologies regarding scientific robustness and practicality;
  • characterisation and quantification of water use in different livestock production systems;
  • assessment of livestock water use, its productivity (e.g., water productivity, WP), and environmental impacts (e.g., water scarcity impact, WSI);
  • evaluation of different methodologies, models, and indicators for assessment of livestock water use;
  • model calculations, data requirements and scale of analysis;
  • address potential uncertainty in livestock water use assessments;
  • water outcomes of soil health management practices;
  • supporting farming systems;
  • novel practices to improve water productivity and/or reduce environmental impacts of livestock water use;
  • reduction in the impact of livestock production on water scarcity.

Dr. Katrin Drastig
Dr. András Székács
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • livestock water use
  • water productivity
  • water consumption
  • water withdrawal
  • water scarcity impact
  • water footprint analysis

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

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20 pages, 2838 KiB  
Article
Challenges When Assessing Water-Related Environmental Impacts of Livestock Farming: A Case Study of a Cow Milk Production System in Catalonia
by Marta Ruiz-Colmenero, Ariadna Bàllega, Miquel Andón, Marta Terré, Maria Devant, Assumpció Antón, Ralph K. Rosenbaum, Anna Targa and Montserrat Núñez
Water 2024, 16(9), 1299; https://doi.org/10.3390/w16091299 - 2 May 2024
Viewed by 678
Abstract
Water availability is a local issue of growing importance in Mediterranean areas where water scarcity linked to climate change and population growth is already leading to increased competition for this resource. This study is aimed at the following: (i) assessing the water-related environmental [...] Read more.
Water availability is a local issue of growing importance in Mediterranean areas where water scarcity linked to climate change and population growth is already leading to increased competition for this resource. This study is aimed at the following: (i) assessing the water-related environmental impacts (water use, freshwater ecotoxicity and eutrophication, marine eutrophication, acidification, human toxicity, and ionizing radiation) along the production chain of cow milk in Catalonia, northeastern Spain; and (ii) addressing the issues encountered (modelling choices, data gaps and inconsistencies) which t can affect the quality of results when performing a water-footprint comprehensive assessment, focusing on water use and associated water scarcity impacts. The scope included the process from the extraction of raw materials up to the distribution of the packaged fat- and protein-corrected milk to the distribution centres of the supermarket chains and markets. Results showed the farm stage to be determinant (contributing to over 60% of the impact), due to the impact of feed production. Impact results were in the range of the European benchmark given by the Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules for dairy products, except for the water scarcity footprint which was one order of magnitude larger than the reference value, due to water scarcity in Spain. Considering compound feed ingredients with a lower water scarcity footprint, and research into slurry treatment for its use as irrigation and cleaning water (without compromising safety and health) could help reduce this impact. Water accounting and traceability along the production chain could support the dairy industry to take responsibility for the consequences of their production choices. Full article
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17 pages, 2307 KiB  
Article
Water Footprints of Dairy Milk Processing Industry: A Case Study of Punjab (India)
by Hanish Sharma, Pranav K. Singh, Inderpreet Kaur and Ranvir Singh
Water 2024, 16(3), 435; https://doi.org/10.3390/w16030435 - 29 Jan 2024
Viewed by 1802
Abstract
A robust assessment of water used in agriculture, including livestock production systems and supply chains, is critical to inform diversification and the development of productivity and sustainable food production systems. This paper presents a detailed analysis of water used and consumed in nine [...] Read more.
A robust assessment of water used in agriculture, including livestock production systems and supply chains, is critical to inform diversification and the development of productivity and sustainable food production systems. This paper presents a detailed analysis of water used and consumed in nine dairy milk processing plants spread across Punjab, India’s leading dairy milk-producing state. Over the five years (2015–2019), the direct water use (DWU) was quantified at 3.31 L of groundwater per kg of milk processed. Only about 26% of the direct water used was consumed, including evaporative losses in various milk processing operations, while the remaining 74% was returned as effluent discharges. The average total water footprint (TWF), accounting for both direct and indirect water consumption, was quantified at 9.0 L of water per kg of milk processed. The majority share (~89%) of the total water footprint was contributed by the indirect water footprint associated with the consumption of electricity (energy) in dairy milk processing activities. The plant’s milk processing capacity and processing products mix also affected significant seasonal and annual variations in the direct and indirect water footprints of dairy milk processing. The analysis also found an inverse relationship between the average total water footprint and the average monthly amount of milk processed in the study plants. Therefore, efforts to reduce the indirect water footprint (associated with energy consumption), the treatment and recycling of effluent discharges, and the optimization of milk processing capacity, the dairy processing product mix, and the locations of dairy processing plants are expected to help reduce the water footprint of dairy processing in the state. Full article
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21 pages, 1472 KiB  
Article
The Water Footprint of Pastoral Dairy Farming: The Effect of Water Footprint Methods, Data Sources and Spatial Scale
by Caleb D. Higham, Ranvir Singh and David J. Horne
Water 2024, 16(3), 391; https://doi.org/10.3390/w16030391 - 24 Jan 2024
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 932
Abstract
The water footprint of pastoral dairy milk production was assessed by analysing water use at 28 irrigated and 60 non-irrigated ‘rain-fed’ pastoral dairy farms in three regions of New Zealand. Two water footprint methods, the WFN-based blue water footprint impact index (WFII [...] Read more.
The water footprint of pastoral dairy milk production was assessed by analysing water use at 28 irrigated and 60 non-irrigated ‘rain-fed’ pastoral dairy farms in three regions of New Zealand. Two water footprint methods, the WFN-based blue water footprint impact index (WFIIblue) and the Available WAter REmaining (AWARE) water scarcity footprint (WFAWARE), were evaluated using different sets of global or local data sources, different rates of environmental flow requirements, and the regional or catchment scale of the analysis. A majority (~99%) of the consumptive water footprint of a unit of pastoral dairy milk production (L/kg of fat- and protein-corrected milk) was quantified as being associated with green and blue water consumption via evapotranspiration for pasture and feed used at the studied dairy farms. The quantified WFIIblue (-) and WFAWARE (m3 world eq./kg of FPCM) indices ranked in a similar order (from lowest to highest) regarding the water scarcity footprint impact associated with pastoral dairy milk production across the study regions and catchments. However, use of the global or local data sets significantly affected the quantification and comparative rankings of the WFIIblue and WFAWARE values. Compared to the local data sets, using the global data sets resulted in significant under- or overestimation of the WFIIblue and WFAWARE values across the study regions and catchments. A catchment-scale analysis using locally available data sets and calibrated models is recommended to robustly assess water consumption and its associated water scarcity impact due to pastoral dairy milk production in local catchments. Full article
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14 pages, 261 KiB  
Article
Water Performance Indicators and Benchmarks for Dairy Production Systems
by Julio Cesar Pascale Palhares, Danielle Leal Matarim, Rafael Vieira de Sousa and Luciane Silva Martello
Water 2024, 16(2), 330; https://doi.org/10.3390/w16020330 - 19 Jan 2024
Viewed by 957
Abstract
The aim of the study is to discern benchmarks for the indicators L water cow−1 day−1 and L water kg milk−1 day−1 per type of production system and season. A total of 876 commercial dairy farms underwent comprehensive water [...] Read more.
The aim of the study is to discern benchmarks for the indicators L water cow−1 day−1 and L water kg milk−1 day−1 per type of production system and season. A total of 876 commercial dairy farms underwent comprehensive water consumption monitoring from January 2021 to December 2022. The monitored water consumptions were animal drinking water and water usage for cleaning. Confined systems exhibited the highest average for animal drinking and cleaning, 87.5 L water cow−1 day−1 and 84.4 L water cow−1 day−1, respectively. Semi-confined systems presented the lowest average for animal drinking, 54.4 L water cow−1 day−1. Pasture systems showed the lowest average for cleaning, 45.2 L water cow−1 day−1. The benchmarks proposed in this study can serve as the first references for animal drinking and milking parlor washing consumption for production systems in tropical conditions. Full article
14 pages, 2740 KiB  
Article
Influence of Climatic Factors on the Water Footprint of Dairy Cattle Production in Hungary—A Case Study
by István Waltner, Attila Ribács, Borbála Gémes and András Székács
Water 2023, 15(23), 4181; https://doi.org/10.3390/w15234181 - 4 Dec 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1077
Abstract
Our study aims to provide a look at how the production of dairy cattle is affecting water resources in Hungary. Utilizing the AquaCrop model and field data from a selected field in Hungary, we focused on the evapotranspiration (ET) and water [...] Read more.
Our study aims to provide a look at how the production of dairy cattle is affecting water resources in Hungary. Utilizing the AquaCrop model and field data from a selected field in Hungary, we focused on the evapotranspiration (ET) and water footprint (WF) of maize (the dominant component of silage mixes), while for other feed crops, we obtained data from scientific literature sources. We also considered drinking and servicing water consumption of dairy cattle, utilizing observations from a specific farm, as well as estimating potential heat stress at the country level. Our findings indicated increasing trends of crop ET as well as biomass production for maize, without significant correlations between the two parameters. Spatiotemporal analysis revealed a significant rise in the number of days with potential heat stress based on temperature-humidity indices, manifesting in practically the entire area of Hungary. Thus, while crop ET rates and corresponding crop water use values (4989–5342 m3/ha) did not show substantial changes, maize WF in silage cultivation rose from 261.9 m3/t dry biomass in 2002 to 378.0 m3/t dry biomass in 2020. Feed and water intake was subsequently recorded on a cattle farm and assessed as green and blue water use. Drinking (blue) water uptake, ranging between 74.7 and 101.9 L/dairy cow/day, moderately correlated with temperature-humidity indices as heat stress indicators (r2 = 0.700–0.767, p < 0.05). Servicing water was not recorded daily, but was calculated as a daily average (18 L/dairy cow/day), and was also considered in blue water usage. In contrast, feed consumption at the cattle farm corresponded to 13,352 ± 4724 L green water/dairy cow/day. Our results indicate that while the WF of animal feed remains a dominant factor in the total water use of dairy cattle farms, drinking water consumption and related costs of adaptive measures (such as adaptive breeding, modified housing, and technological measures) are expected to increase due to potential heat stress, particularly in selected regions where farmers should focus more on housing and technological solutions, as well as selecting for thermotolerance. Full article
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18 pages, 9179 KiB  
Article
Impact Assessment of Livestock Production on Water Scarcity in a Watershed in Southern Brazil
by Sofia Helena Zanella Carra, Katrin Drastig, Julio Cesar Pascale Palhares, Taison Anderson Bortolin, Hagen Koch and Vania Elisabete Schneider
Water 2023, 15(22), 3955; https://doi.org/10.3390/w15223955 - 14 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1369
Abstract
This study presents the assessment of water scarcity associated with livestock production in a watershed in Southern Brazil where 115 farms (poultry, pig, and milk) are located. The methods, AWARE—available water remaining, and BWSI—blue water scarcity index, were applied monthly for the year [...] Read more.
This study presents the assessment of water scarcity associated with livestock production in a watershed in Southern Brazil where 115 farms (poultry, pig, and milk) are located. The methods, AWARE—available water remaining, and BWSI—blue water scarcity index, were applied monthly for the year 2018, and the characterization factors (CF) were regionalized into five scenarios evaluated by varying water availability and environmental water requirements. Livestock water consumption accounted for 94.1% of the total water consumed. Low water scarcity was observed in all scenarios (BWSI < 0). The highest CFAWARE was observed in scenario 3, ranging from 2.15 to 9.70 m3 world eq.m3, with higher water scarcity in summer. In the same scenario, pig production presented the highest annual average water scarcity footprint (WSF) of 90.3 m3 world eq./t carcass weight. Among milk production systems, pasture-based systems presented the highest annual average WSF of 52.7 m3 world eq./t fat protein corrected milk, surpassing semi-confined and confined systems by 12.4% and 3.5%, respectively. In scenario 3, poultry production presented an annual average WSF of 49.3 m3 world eq./t carcass weight. This study contributes knowledge to the livestock sector to perform the assessment of water scarcity. Full article
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Review

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24 pages, 3280 KiB  
Review
A Review of Nutritional Water Productivity (NWP) in Agriculture: Why It Is Promoted and How It Is Assessed?
by Katrin Drastig, Ranvir Singh, Fiorina-Marie Telesca, Sofia Zanella Carra and Jasper Jordan
Water 2023, 15(24), 4278; https://doi.org/10.3390/w15244278 - 14 Dec 2023
Viewed by 1133
Abstract
Assessment of nutritional water productivity (NWP) combines a metric of crop or livestock production per unit water consumed and human nutritional value of the food produced. As such, it can rationalize the use of scarce water for a portfolio of crop [...] Read more.
Assessment of nutritional water productivity (NWP) combines a metric of crop or livestock production per unit water consumed and human nutritional value of the food produced. As such, it can rationalize the use of scarce water for a portfolio of crop and livestock production systems that jointly match human nutritional needs and reduce water scarcity impacts. However, a comprehensive search and review of 40 NWP studies highlighted that current NWP studies vary widely in terms of their methodological approaches, the data and tools used and the water flows and nutrient content accounted for. Most of the studies accounted for evapotranspiration stemming from precipitation and technical water, and/or inclusion of the withdrawn technical water. Water scarcity was only addressed in four studies. The reported NWP values also varied for accounting of macro- (energy, protein, fat and carbohydrates) and micro-nutrient (minerals and vitamins) content. The methodological differences, however, severely limit the informative value of reported NWP values. A multidisciplinary research effort is required to further develop standardized metrics for NWP, including its local environmental water scarcity impacts. A robust NWP analysis framework in agriculture should focus on the integration of assessments of NWP and water scarcity impact (WSI), and development of more field measurements and locally calibrated and validated agrohydrological and farm production models to quantify reliable NWP values and their associated WSI of agriculture production systems worldwide. Full article
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