The livestock sector is the world’s largest user of natural resources. The global livestock sector, mainly ruminants, contributes approximately 18% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions. Livestock farming in Europe faces stricter and increasingly binding requirements regarding environmental protection and animal welfare.

Nonetheless, d­­­­­airy production systems (DPS) are an essential backbone of European agriculture. DPS produce high quality protein essential for humans, contribute to the conservation of species, to farmland biodiversity, to the maintenance of traditional agricultural landscapes, preventing land abandonment. They can convert fibrous feed resources that could not be utilized by humans or converted to human food by monogastric animals. European regions are highly diverse and complex, farmed within a wide range of different extensive, semi-intensive and intensive production systems. Dairy production is the sector in agriculture where region-specific concepts are most prominently required and where the opportunity to install circular mixed crop-livestock systems is evident, though not sufficiently researched.

This desirable level of circularity is currently met only to a very limited extent, since most dairy systems heavily rely on external input such as concentrate feeds and mineral fertilizers.
Integration of dairy and crop production systems at farm or regional level provide solutions to the current challenges. Research in DairyMix aims at including farming systems for dairy production into circular economy for global food and nutrition security with low environmental impacts, applying a systems thinking approach throughout the whole project.

  • DairyMix targets shifting the European DPS away from the linear economy paradigm that generates wastes and produces huge amounts of GHG and N emissions.
  • DairyMix assesses the sustainability of dairy production systems at farm and regional levels including grasslands, crops, forests and dairy subsystems within the crop-livestock system. Modelling techniques are employed to understand current dynamics, predict long-term effects and evaluate scenarios. Multi-criteria assessment including the quantification of trade-offs and synergies is conducted.
  • DairyMix evaluates the possible linkages of increased circularity and nutrient use efficiency in the dairy and crop subsystems with the immediate and long- term economic performance as well as social dimensions of labour management, regional cooperation between farms and knowledge exchange among stakeholders.
  • DairyMix results will be fed into the MilKey/DairyMix platform, currently being created within the EraNet project “MilKey”. The platform is a long-lasting multi-actor knowledge hub to increase understanding and knowledge of sustainable dairy production systems and to intensify the dialogue between science, farmers, stakeholders and policy. DairyMix is further extending the platform capabilities by including models and solutions for integration of crop and livestock farming systems to close loops of resources, reduce losses and external inputs and foster resilience.